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Enslavement and Freedom in Transition

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MENA Societies from Empires to National States

image of Journal of Global Slavery

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.

Affiliations: 1: Tel Aviv University


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