Insights from the Economic History Project: Female Voices in the ORal Data of Slavery in Kano Emirate

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:50 AM
Clark Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Mohamed Bashir Salau, University of Mississippi
In 1975, Yusufu Yunusa recorded several interviews dealing with slavery in Kano as part of the Economic History Project initiated by Jan Hogendorn and Paul E. Lovejoy. Some have used the materials recorded by Yunusa to highlight the voices of royal and or non-royal male slaves while others have used the same materials to reconstruct the history of slavery in Kano, and the Sokoto Caliphate in general. The emphasis of most of those who used the Yunusa Collection in the latter regard has rarely been directly on enslaved women. The concentration of works based on the Yunusa Collection on male voices and on issues not directly related to female slavery in general is almost inevitable since Yunusa primarily interviewed men in the course of the Economic History Project. Yet this attention to the quotidian threatens to obscure the exceptional. What about the voices of the two women Yunusa interviewed in the course of the economic history project? The voice of at least one of them, I would argue, is as important in allowing us appreciate the history and nature of slavery in Kano/Sokoto caliphate as the dominant male voices in the Yunusa Collection. This paper will highlight attention to the testimony Hauwa, one of the two women interviewed by Yunusa, partly by comparing her account to those of male interviewees, and will ask: what is common in both accounts? It will therefore focus on several issues like enslavement, slave labor, and concubinage. By focusing on such issues it will attempt to show that the Yunusa collection not only allows the voice of at least a woman to be heard, but, as the dominant male voices in the Yunusa Collection, the female voice in question throws light on diverse sets of issues related to slavery in Kano.