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The Paradox of the Female Slave Body in the Islamic Legal System: The Cases of Morocco and Sudan

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This chapter is concerned with the way in which Muslim jurisprudence dealt with the body of female slaves in two Muslim societies: Morocco and the Sudan. While the depiction and the representation of the slave body have generated a great deal of debate among scholars working on slavery in the New World, this subject has received little attention amongst both Islamicists and Africanists. The literature on slavery in the American South and in the Caribbean has shown that the depiction of the slave body reveals a great deal about the reality of slavery, the relations of power and control, and the cultural codes that existed within the slave societies. The slave physical appearance and gestures were used to distinguish between the slaves and free and to justify slavery. Throughout the Americas slaves were routinely branded as a form of identification right up to the eighteenth century. Although the body of the slaves from both sexes was subjected to the same depiction, the treatment of female slaves deserves further exploration. As many scholars have argued, slave women suffer the double jeopardy of being both a slave and a woman. Moreover, the body of the female slave in Muslim societies is of particular significance as many of them were used for sexual purposes, as mistresses and concubines. The chapter shows that the reproductive role of female slaves became a major justice issue, particularly in their struggle for freedom.

Affiliations: 1: >Ohio State University, Email:


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