Black slaves in Mamlūk narratives: Representations of transgression

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While a great deal of scholarly attention has been paid to the white military slaves and freedmen in the Mamluk Empire (1250-1517), the black slaves ('abīd) have often been overlooked. In Egypt, Mamluk society, especially military society, was marked by a profound racial discourse that privileged white over black. This was by no means the only ethnic/racial categorization of people and groups, nor was it the only mechanism of privilege. But the definition of black slaves as the subaltern had social, economic and political ramifications that can not be ignored. Such definitions are especially evident in accounts of black slaves who are perceived to violate existing boundaries. My purpose in this paper is to explore the ways in which six Mamluk historians construct often mutually contradictory narratives of transgressive black slaves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-464
Number of pages30
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Army
  • Black slaves ('abīd)
  • Ethnic group
  • Mamlūk empire
  • Race
  • Slavery


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