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PATTERNS OF SLAVING AND PREY–PREDATOR INTERFACES IN AND AROUND THE MANDARA MOUNTAINS (NIGERIA AND CAMEROON)

  • Nicholas David
Abstract

While from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century there was a lasting and elastic demand for slaves in Central Africa, the practices by which they were acquired had to be adapted to the physical and human terrain, the technologies available and the socio-cultural postures of the predator and prey societies. In this paper, I sketch the changing patterns of these variables in six slaving zones in and around the northern Mandara Mountains. Using historical sources, information from the diary of Hamman Yaji, a Fulani chief and active slaver, and data gathered in the course of ethnographic research in three of these zones by myself and colleagues, I show that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the extraction of slaves from particular sub-regions within these zones was highly variable, as is evident in the interfaces between the decentralized prey societies and the predatory states. Besides providing fresh perspectives on slaving and evidence for evaluating the constructions of historians, such studies open the way for research on the mutual accommodations to slaving affecting the societies and cultures of both prey and predators.

Il existait certes une demande d'esclaves durable élastique en Afrique centrale du XVIème jusqu'au début du XXème siècle, mais il a fallu adapter les pratiques d'acquisition de ces esclaves au paysage physique et humain, aux technologies disponibles et aux postures socioculturelles des sociétés prédatrices et proies. L'auteur de cet article brosse une esquisse de l’évolution de ces variables dans six zones d'esclavage situées dans la région des monts Mandara, au nord. S'appuyant sur des sources historiques, des informations extraites du journal d'Haman Yaji, chef peul et esclavagiste actif, et des données recueillies lors de recherches ethnographiques menées par l'auteur et ses collaborateurs dans trois de ces zones, l'auteur montre qu’à la fin du XIXème et au début du XXème siècle, l'extraction d'esclaves de sous-régions particulières dans ces zones était extrêmement variable, comme en témoignent les interfaces entre les sociétés décentralisées et les États prédateurs. Outre le fait d'apporter de nouvelles perspectives sur l'esclavage et des éléments factuels pour évaluer les constructions des historiens, ces études ouvrent une voie de recherche sur les accommodements mutuels en matière d'esclavage affectant les sociétés et les cultures des proies et des prédateurs.

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