Added: Farrel Morse - Date: 12.10.2021 06:26 - Views: 24757 - Clicks: 8428
Living the Legacy of Slavery. By exploring the various discourses that have given shape to discussions of slavery over time, the author seeks to explain why contemporary slavery is such a difficult concept to address both within and outside of the country. And by drawing on the case history of a former-slave family, "Hamody of Atar", she hopes to find a way to understand its complexities from the perspective of personal experience. Or more precisely, "discourses". To whatever extent a reality called "slavery" existed in Mauritania, it has long been obscured by various political agenda shaping the society in whose heart it lay.
This is no less true at the beginning of the 21 st century than it was a hundred years ago. Far from providing unequivocal "truths", they too are players in contemporary society; their voices are as political and as socially sensitive as the more traditional spokespersons—the government officials, political parties, external agencies and outside observers of varying dispositions.
My focus here is meant neither to avoid engaging with the human aspects of the subject, nor to indulge in academic obscurantism. I seek to establish an understanding of why the discussion of "slavery" today in Mauritania is such a difficult one to have and why, to the extent that it takes place, it does so primarily outside the country.
That said, "slavery" also delineates the intersection of several important developments in Mauritania and, ironically, provides us with one of those proverbial windows into societal development we are always seeking. In the last part of the paper, I draw on some recent research to try and illuminate why that is the case and what shapes the dominant strands of discourse today 1. Initially in the hands of medieval Arab scribes, from the 15 th century onwards these topics became the prerogative of European observers.
First they came as active participants in slaving, trading and creating the Atlantic institutions of slavery; then as vocal advocates for abolishing all of the above; finally they arrived as ambivalent occupiers of Africa itself where evolving European notions of abolition intersected uncomfortably with African domestic slave practices and institutions.
The "Arab" connection in Mauritania in terms of historical s, settlement and cultural orientation also meant association with Islam and with Muslims. For Europeans, this association was superimposed on their understanding of the territory and its people through perceptions they held of "the orient". Orientalism shaped abolitionism in particular ways: slavery and the desert slave trade, for example, were in the hands of stereotypically cruel, vicious Arabs and their "slavery" was an institution peculiar to Islam; it would therefore be particularly difficult to deracinate it from regions like Mauritania.
Europeans understood slavery in the Sahara as it was filtered through their own complicated relations with the Muslim Orient, as well as through their domestic battles over abolition. This intellectual positioning continued to be reflected in key academic works on, as well as important colonial policy in, Mauritania, through the first half of the 20 th century McDougall At the time of conquest, it was argued that recognition of the "morals, customs, property and religion" of the Muslim Mauritanian elite necessitated permitting it continued access to slaves—slavery was, in essence, a integral part of each "morality and custom", "property" and of course "religion".
From another perspective, it was felt that precisely because slavery was so deeply rooted, slaves themselves were simply "not ready" to be wrenched from their social security, to do so would be to "sow social disorder". Consequently, Mauritania was not yet "ripe enough for the exercise of full individualism" or for the "progressive and definitive freeing of the labouring masses" 2.
Similar logic repeated itself over the next couple of decades, language itself slowly evolving, increasingly differentiating between trade in slaves not permitted , domestic slavery as shaped by Islam permitted and the exigencies of labour needs, both colonial and local also permitted.
This was articulated in in the following way:. What we do not permit is the reduction to servitude by force those of a free condition [. By , the International Labour Organization ILO and the League of Nations were constituted; by the mids, they had both actively taken up the question of "slave-like" labour conditions and in , the Anti-Slavery Convention was passed. French colonial administrators sought creative language that could reshape the issue of forced labour into discussions of taxation, military service and infrastructures meant to "bring liberation" to Africans. Nowhere was this rhetorical gymnastics more innovative than in the Mauritanian context, where Islamic law and Muslim "custom" were incorporated into the discourse.
To no avail; the conference of passed a convention on colonial forced labour that included all forms, including those employed in Mauritania. France did not ratify it until Cooper ; United Nations 4. Documentation was requested from all Governor-Generals on the remnants of domestic slavery, of tribal or chiefly slavery, of pawning, of hidden trafficking in women and children and of all non-remunerated forms of labour 5.
What occurred during the s and even more aggressively in the s while France ostensibly supported legislation abolishing forced labour, was a careful re-definition of what constituted "free" labour. This process necessitated the use of what Fred Cooper 31 termed "the international language of free labour", one often at odds with the experiences of on-the-spot administrators. Mauritania may have lain outside the mainstream of the labour discourse deliberations—indeed its Maures were written off completely as people who would not work 6 , but it was nonetheless directly affected by them.
Lengthy reports and circulars were issued to clearly establish the peculiarity of Mauritania's Muslim society. All resonated strongly with the "language of international labour" created by the League of Nations and the ILO in the s and s McDougall forthcoming [b] 7.
In Mauritania this translated into consideration of a particular group, the haratin. Numerous reports spoke to the advantage of Islamic sharia law that advocated freeing slaves, especially male slaves, to create freed slaves. These haratin, it was noted, retained relations of semi-dependence with former masters but had incentive to "progress", to work hard, to accumulate and to educate themselves and their children.
One of the keys to this argument was that French "freeing" of slaves could not create haratin, only chaos: "[T]oo rapidly emancipated, [such freed servile people would be] incapable of using well a liberty freshly acquired, [and] without resources and without context, would constitute a miserable proletariat, detribalized, [and] uncontrollable" 8. This is what Mauritanians came to realize as well. As early as , a French administrator celebrated claims to have created a "working class" from Mauritania's haratin: "A new social hierarchy, founded uniquely on wealth, is being established.
Politically, it is difficult to predict the consequences of this evolution which consecrates the importance of work and which destroys the ancient seigneurs [my emphasis]" 9. But what is clear in retrospect, from the seigneurs' perspective, is that the hartani institution, like slavery itself, fully "consecrated the importance of work". French capitalist ideology was not necessary to articulate that. Nor did creating enough haratin to satisfy labour needs in any way undermine, let along "destroy", the social authority of masters.
The French were explaining the process of using Mauritanian Muslim law and social custom to free slaves in order to participate in a particular international labour discourse; Mauritanian masters were using that same process to protect their rights in labour. Evidence suggests that colonial policies of forcing expanded cultivation in suitable regions of the country may well have accelerated the process as early as the s. It was notable that masters freed men to become haratin but resisted, openly, freeing women.
Keeping women as slaves meant keeping the means to reproduce the labour force. Women's children belonged to their masters no matter who the father; even as the hartani "working class" grew, Mauritanian masters assured that access to its slave roots was protected McDougall b: Contrary to the social revolution the French celebrated as being underway, Mauritanian masters saw themselves preserving their traditional authority and society. Ironically, for each, "slavery" and its manipulation was the key to their respective visions McDougall forthcoming [b]. A lengthier could add other examples to these, ranging from internal French politics in the s McDougall a: 10 to international competition for post-colonial influence emerging in the s McDougall forthcoming By the time Mauritania became independent in and iterated "equality for all" in its constitution United Nations, Annex II 2 12 , what was understood by "slavery" was multi-faceted and multi-layered.
Although initially eliminating slavery had been a stated aim of colonialism, ultimately slavery itself became part of the process of defining and developing colonial rule McDougall b, forthcoming [b] Its implicit rejection by the newly independent state was also part of its claim to independence.
The battle against slavery had been a very public colonial motif; it was soon to be similarly appropriated for Mauritania's programmes of modernization and development. It remained central to the evolution of politics and continued to evoke the role of Islam— this time in the context of the "Islamic Republique" of Mauritania.
What was new were the voices of slaves and former slaves in this process. While academics, human rights groups and journalists multiplied access to an international hearing of stories of slavery, domestic labour and political movements embodied growing s of "slaves" and created collective voices for both internal and external consumption.
The latter was at once an extension of the process as we have come to understand it—more layers, more discourses, more participants—and something distinctively new. The "something new", as we will see, was the emergence of conscious identities between and among slaves and haratin.
Issues of economic development, tribal co-operation and ethnic reconciliation occupied center stage 14 ; slavery as such escaped the limelight, even among the haratin who comprised most of Mauritania's work force. The interests of the latter paralleled national politics and concerns common to newly independent African countries—more voice to assure better living conditions in the cities, more jobs, more access to resources. Although many workers were probably still slaves, formally speaking if not legally, it was not until the late s, after two decades of drought and famine had pushed thousands from the desert-interior to the overcrowded capital of Nouakchott, and the war against the POLISARIO in the Western Sahara had over-drawn human and material resources, that slavery per se was articulated as a political issue.
Soninke, Wolof and, above all, Pulaar herders and cultivators were themselves traditionally slave-holders in hierarchical social orders not unlike their ethnic relatives on the Senegal side of the river. They came to share hartani dissatisfaction with the largely beidan "white" government's exclusive control of power and resources. Moreover, they felt that whatever little influence they had in government was eroding dangerously in inverse proportion to the encroachment on their valuable land by impoverished desert-dwellers.
Hopes, therefore, were high among Blacks that a new government would address these concerns. This was followed by a decree in which specified how this would take place United Nations , Annex V. What is ificant about this legal abolition is that it was argued completely in terms of Islam and coincided with the imposition of sharia law.
Just as the colonial regime had once argued that Islam provided the context for ending slavery without social disorder, the national government invoked the religious reasoning that Islam had always intended to first convert non-believers slaves , and then manumit them. The only slavery justified within Islam was slavery imposed as the result of jihad. And it was widely although not unanimously agreed among Mauritania's ulama clerical scholarly community that no slaves held in could be said to have been obtained in this way.
Therefore, there was no justification for their continued enslavement. Moreover, Islam made provision for compensation to masters should the state free slaves—but only if they, the masters, could prove the legitimacy of their "property". Black southerners, although just as Muslim as their beidan neighbours, saw the move primarily as one to move closer to the Arab world and therefore potentially, further from their goals of acquiring more political voice.
But most interesting was the international reaction: ironically, the introduction of sharia and the general contextualizing of government in "Islamic" rhetoric were read as an attempt to defend slavery. In a highly simplistic but very dramatic fashion, "abolition" was used in the international media to call attention to the anachronistic continuance of the reviled practice of slavery, apparently firmly supported by Islam.
Turned around, Islam became the explanation for slavery. And its association with Mauritania's "white" government meant that it also represented racial discrimination. It was not a long leap of logic to link racial discrimination against southern "Blacks" with "slavery" and ultimately, with Islam Distinctions between hartani and slaves, similarities between white and black masters, disappeared from the international discourse.
This simplified Mauritania was effectively sketched in a widely distributed BBC film on slavery Just as they had earlier reacted to colonial policy, local interests both responded to and exploited that image for their own purposes. They astutely recognized that the slave issue articulated by El Hor and so emotively put to the world would resonate internationally, and that they could use this recognition to promote their own political goals.
Moreover, the more haratin could be persuaded to identify themselves as "black", the more their own demographic profile would be strengthened domestically.Slave seeks master i need to be dominated
email: [email protected] - phone:(122) 591-1598 x 1480
Master-slave legal relationships