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Power, Honour and Shame: The Ideology of Royal Slavery in the Sokoto Caliphate

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2011

Abstract

This article takes issue with ahistorical typologies that depict all slaves as ‘dishonoured’ persons. It demonstrates that royal slaves in Kano emirate of the Sokoto Caliphate were initially valuable to the elite because they were indeed dishonoured outsiders. But, over time, slaves tried to limit their exploitation by developing their own systems of honour and status. The article traces when, where and how royal slaves in Kano acquired and attempted to acquire ‘honour’ as officials, kin and members of a broader social world. However, it concludes that, although slaves did indeed develop systems of honour, their ability to acquire an honourable identity was nonetheless limited by their status as slaves, which they remained despite their power and position.

Résumé

Cet article exprime son désaccord avec les typologies ahistoriques qui dépeignent tous les esclaves comme des personnes «déshonorées». Il montre que l’élite attachait initialement une valeur aux esclaves royaux de l’Emirat de Kano, rattaché au Califat de Sokoto, parce qu’ils étaient en effet des étrangers déshonorés. Au fil du temps cependant, les esclaves ont tenté de limiter leur exploitation en élaborant leurs propres systèmes d’honneur et de statut. L’article retrace le moment, le lieu et la façon dont les esclaves royaux de Kano acquirent et tentèrent d’acquérir de l’«honneur» en tant qu'officiels, parents et membres d’un univers social plus large. Il conclut cependant que, bien qu’ayant effectivement élaboré leurs propres systèmes d’honneur, les esclaves jouissaient néanmoins d’une capacité limitée à acquérir une identité honorable compte tenu de leur statut d’esclave, statut qu’ils conservaient en dépit de leur puissance et de leur position.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © International African Institute 2000

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