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Black Morocco
A History of Slavery, Race, and Islam


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Part of African Studies

  • Date Published: February 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107651777

£ 22.99

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About the Authors
  • Black Morocco: A History of Slavery, Race, and Islam chronicles the experiences, identity and achievements of enslaved black people in Morocco from the sixteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. Chouki El Hamel argues that we cannot rely solely on Islamic ideology as the key to explain social relations and particularly the history of black slavery in the Muslim world, for this viewpoint yields an inaccurate historical record of the people, institutions and social practices of slavery in Northwest Africa. El Hamel focuses on black Moroccans' collective experience beginning with their enslavement to serve as the loyal army of the Sultan Isma'il. By the time the Sultan died in 1727, they had become a political force, making and unmaking rulers well into the nineteenth century. The emphasis on the political history of the black army is augmented by a close examination of the continuity of black Moroccan identity through the musical and cultural practices of the Gnawa.

    • Fills a gap in the scholarship concerning slavery, race and gender in Morocco
    • Deconstructs familiar concepts by focusing on the agency of the enslaved people and investigating the subaltern relationship to the ruling institutions, power, race and gender politics
    • Argues that we cannot rely solely on Islamic ideology as the key to explaining the history of black slavery in the Muslim world
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    • Honourable Mention, 2016 L. Carl Brown Book Prize, The American Institute for Maghrib Studies

    Reviews & endorsements

    'In Black Morocco Professor El Hamel argues persuasively that contrary to Islamic principles, Northwest Africans imposed a racial slavery upon the black peoples of the region. Drawing on a vast array of sources in Arabic and European languages, he focuses on Sultan Mawlay Ismail's enslavement of 221,000 black Moroccans in the late seventeenth century in order to form a slave army. These soldiers and their families leveraged the essential role they played in the Sultan's government and gradually freed themselves, though many fell back into slavery after the demise of the Sultan's dynasty. By recounting the waxing and waning fortunes of these black Moroccans … El Hamel elegantly demonstrates the heartbreaking ambiguity of racial slavery and servility.' Timothy Cleaveland, University of Georgia

    'This is an important topic, ignored until recently. The slavery question is cleverly, soundly, and gently analyzed. A fascinating historical study (including gender differentiation), which may help for the future.' Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, Professor Emerita, Université Paris Diderot

    'A powerfully written and provocative examination of slavery and the process of racialization in Morocco, bringing together North and West African scholarship in an imaginative and highly productive fashion. Sweeping in scope, impressively researched, and richly documented, El Hamel's achievement is at times mesmerizing; it constitutes a signal contribution to the study of slavery, race, and Islam. There is nothing quite like it.' Michael Gomez, New York University

    'Black Morocco is an elegant, beautifully written, and thoroughly researched lesson for all scholars of the history of Africa, the Middle East, and slavery. El Hamel's work teaches us to look within, and also beyond, Islam, for answers to the experience and the conditions of slavery in Morocco. [He] teaches us to listen to the legacy of Moroccan slavery in Gnawa music, giving his readers the chance to hear the experience of slavery, and to honor its singers.' Eve Troutt Powell, University of Pennsylvania

    '… a valuable contribution to North African historiography and the study of slavery … an important contribution not only to the study of slavery but also to the field of North African history. … Black Morocco offers us the most sustained and in-depth discussion of Mawlay Isma'il's army to date, and provides a solid overview of slavery in Morocco beyond this particular sultan's reign.' Jonathan Glasser, H-Atlantic

    'Chouki El Hamel has given us a thorough, well-researched, engaging study of Islam, slavery, and race in Morocco. He weaves together Islamic jurisprudence, Moroccan court histories, European travel accounts, Sufi hagiography, diplomatic correspondence, and social history to explode long-standing cultural myths … El Hamel locates a window to the past in the black diasporic mystical culture of the present.' Ellen Amster, American Historical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107651777
    • length: 354 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 4 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Race, Gender, and Slavery in the Islamic Discourse:
    1. The notion of slavery and the justification of concubinage as an institution of slavery in Islam
    2. The interplay between slavery, race, and color prejudice
    Part II. Black Morocco: The Internal African Diaspora:
    3. The trans-Saharan diaspora
    4. 'Racializing slavery': the controversy of Mawlay Isma'il's project
    5. The Black Army functions and the role of women
    6. The political history of the Black Army: between privilege and marginality
    7. The abolition of slavery in Morocco
    8. The Gnawa and the memory of slavery

  • Author

    Chouki El Hamel, Arizona State University
    Chouki El Hamel is Associate Professor in History at Arizona State University.


    • Honourable Mention, 2016 L. Carl Brown Book Prize, The American Institute for Maghrib Studies

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