Slavery in the mainstream historiography of Ethiopia is written from two perspectives: the first is a view of slavery as a mere product of a hitherto conquering empire state of qehy—“red” people and a conquered salim or “black” people—without opening up both the inside of the state and the communities. In this narrative, slavery in Ethiopia is represented as a racialized prehistory of Atlantic slavery. The second narrative is the representation of slavery in a binary form: as a household practice within Ethiopia and the slave trade out of Ethiopia. This essay reinterprets and destabilizes these narratives, which are seemingly derivative narratives of the Atlantic model of slavery. It also tries to debunk the binary narrative and the silencing of history, substantiating the discussion with a historical account of the emperor’s special army of captives, called c’äwa, in the longue durée premodern Ethiopia.

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