This set of essays seeks to broaden our conceptual understanding of slavery beyond the binary household/chattel slavery established by scholars taking their cue from transatlantic slavery to include militaryadministrative slavery as a third type, thus allowing us to think of slavery as not only domestic (household) and market-driven (chattel) but also polity-driven (military-administrative). We further seek to soften another binary, freedom and slavery, to underline the fact that the domain of unfreedom included a range of dependent relations. Because slave soldiers and administrators became a way for the monarchy to ensure loyalty in the thick of fierce competition, they became integral to the process of formation of particular states. In these contexts, masters looked to slave soldiers and slave administrators not as so many sources of profit but as sources of loyalty and guarantors of order. A failure to understand this historical specificity has underpinned a larger literature on Africa, particularly on state formation, seeing it as the result of external processes, whether Hemetic or Semitic.
Introduction: Trans-African Slaveries Thinking Historically
Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University and executive director of Makerere Institute of Social Research. He specializes in the comparative study of colonialism since 1452, postcolonial civil war and mass violence, and the politics of knowledge production. Mamdani was awarded the Herskovitz Prize (1996) for Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Princeton University Press; new preface, 2018). It was also acclaimed “one of the hundred best books on Africa written in the twentieth century” by a fifteen-person Pan-African jury at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair held in Cape Town in 2002. Mamdani was listed as one of the “Top Twenty Public Intellectuals” globally by Foreign Policy (US) and Prospect (UK) magazine in 2008; he served as president of CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa) from 1998 to 2002.