By Ehud R. Toledano
The publication seems on the bonds of slavery from an unique standpoint, relocating clear of the conventional master/slave domination paradigm towards the perspective of the enslaved and their responses to their plight. With prepared and unique insights, Toledano indicates new methods of brooding about enslavement.
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Additional info for As If Silent and Absent: Bonds of Enslavement in the Islamic Middle East
Only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century did local opponents articulate their views in published works, which, at the same time, began to reflect the growing number who criticized enslavement on moral grounds. In an earlier book I put the main argument that constituted the defensive position in the following words: The crux of the Ottoman argument was that slavery in the empire, as in other Muslim societies, was fundamentally different from slavery in the Americas. In the main, it was far milder because slaves were not employed on plantations, were well treated, were frequently manumitted, and could integrate into the slave-owning society.
Did the crime make sense—that is, were cause and effect factored in, or was it an act of whim, committed in a rage or out of despair, or was it committed to make a statement rather than to achieve a concrete goal? These and other considerations will be woven into the story to fill the gaps in the records and enable us to assess how slaves in Ottoman societies experienced their predicament and coped with it. For this kind of puzzle work, social historians will always need to use their imagination, albeit with due circumspection, to travel the distance between their own time and space and those inhabited by the people they study—in our case, the enslaved persons who lived in the Ottoman Empire during the long nineteenth century.
In other words, their agency depended on denial of services, whether in the fields, the mines, or the household—the last including sexual services and rearing and nurturing children, in addition to the rest of the domestic package. We might go somewhat further in defining the slaver-enslaved relationship as containing a component of an unwritten pact, which was personal, protective, remunerative, and emotional. In both household and field, fishery and quarry, but to varying degrees, the bond formed between the two was akin to a family bond, implicit to which was trust.