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Edited by James Christie and Nesrin Degirmencioglu

Walking Capital

The Economic Function and Social Location of Babylonian Servitude

Seth Richardson

Abstract

This contribution looks at Babylonian slaves and servants as they appear in 322 Old Babylonian letters. This corpus has not been used for this purpose before, and now reveals that the primary economic functions of slaves had to do with information and credit in an economic environment of mercantilism, rather than with labor in the agricultural sector. Cuneiform letters, rarely mentioning work, instead emphasized the independent movement of slaves, their delegation as proxies to their masters to conduct business, and their capacity to serve as collateral for loans. The analysis of this evidence permits a deeper look at the ethics of care and control that conditioned the relations of masters and slaves, and what we can now say about the personhood of slaves and servants.

Fernanda Bretones Lane, Guilherme de Paula Costa Santos and Alain El Youssef

Abstract

This article analyzes the ways that discussions regarding the abolition of the slave trade held at the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) affected slavery in the Iberian empires. Drawing from newspaper coverage, diplomatic correspondence, and conference minutes, we reassess the conditions under which Portuguese and Spanish agents negotiated with their British counterparts; highlight the Iberian political dilemmas that surfaced at the Congress; and elucidate the plenipotentiaries’ subsequent resolutions addressing the transatlantic slave trade. As a result of the talks held in Vienna, Spanish subjects in Cuba and Portuguese subjects in Brazil established political and diplomatic strategies to support slavery in order to maintain their positions in the world market of tropical goods. In other words, while slavery was undergoing reconfiguration in Brazil and Cuba, slave-owners and their political representatives were forced to engage with the hegemonic, abolitionist discourse systematically established by the British at the Congress in order to formulate their proslavery response. The article thus demonstrates that the Congress of Vienna was integral to the international consolidation of the politics of “second slavery” in the Americas. In other words, Brazil and Cuba were forced to engage with the hegemonic discourse systematically established by the British at the Congress in reconfiguring slavery and formulating their proslavery defense.

The “Fused Horizon” of Abolitionism and Islam

Historicism, the Quran and the Global History of Abolition

Nathaniel Mathews

Abstract

This article considers slavery and abolition in Muslim societies globally as a historical and historicist problem. I argue that the changes in popular consensus among Muslims about the desirability and permissibility of owning slaves is primarily due to a Gadamerian “fused horizon” of abolitionism and Islam. I theorize one site of its emergence from interreligious African cooperation in New World slave rebellions. By studying slavery as a global process and parochializing the boundaries between the civilizational and regional histories of Islam, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, there emerges a radical critique of slavery and capitalism that combines elements of both abolitionism and Islam. The historical experience of enslaved people provides an experiential and evidential basis for this new hermeneutical horizon.

In Memoriam

Joseph C. Miller, University of Virginia