This article explores the transition from enslavement to post-emancipation realities in the Muslim-majority societies of the Middle East and North Africa during the last stage of empire and the first phase of nation-building. The main argument is that within enslavement, there were gradations of bondage and servitude, not merely a dichotomy between free and enslaved. The various social positions occupied by the enslaved are best understood as points on a continuum of social, economic, and cultural realities. In turn, these were reproduced after emancipation in the successor states that emerged following the demise of the Ottoman and Qajar empires, the Sharifian state in Morocco, and the various principalities of the Arab/Persian Gulf. Hence, post-emancipation did not create equal citizenship for all freed persons, but rather the inequality within enslavement transitioned into the post-imperial societies of the Middle East and North Africa.
Günver Güneş“Kölelikten Özgülüğe: İzmir’de Zenciler ve Zenci Folkloru,”Toplumsal Tarih11/62 (Feb 1999): 4–10 (information in this paragraph is from 4–5 and 9); Esma Durugönül “The Invisibility of Turks of African Origin and the Construction of Turkish Cultural Identity: The Need for a New Historiography” Journal of Black Studies 33 no. 3 (Jan. 2003): 289 (based on Güneş 4).
Madeline C. Zilfi“Servants, Slaves, and the Domestic Order in the Ottoman Middle East,”Hawwa2 no. 1 (2004): 29. For her evolved view on the economic importance of Ottoman slavery see her book Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire: The Design of Difference (New York: Cambridge University Press 2010) 220–224.
Christman“Analyzing Freedom from the Shadows of Slavery”164; cf. Walter Johnson’s more restricted definition of agency as “the degree to which enslaved people were able to construct their own world remain independent of another’s control and exercise a degree of free will and self-ownership.” (In Follett et al Slavery’s Ghost 5.)