Slavery, Marriage, and Mothering in Enslaved Communities in the Gulf, 192638

Friday, January 4, 2019: 11:10 AM
Wilson Room (Palmer House Hilton)
John Thabiti Willis, Carleton College
Manumission records come from the British Foreign Office Records from the National Archives and India Office Records in the British Library document the experiences of enslaved women who sought freedom through the aid of British agents in the Gulf region. Drawing on these records, I highlight the ways in which manumission offered them a path to protect and maintain the families that enslaved women of African descent formed while performing the role of concubine, mistress, and wife while birthing and rearing children under slavery or a related system of unfree or coerced labor. My analysis challenges the prevailing scholarly view that enslaved African women assimilated into the households and labor regimes of their owners and demonstrates that extent to which Islamic law did not inform the intimate relations of Muslims. I also illuminate the ways in which these women nurtured communities living under enslavement and the ongoing threat of separation through the sale of their kin.