Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Jonathan MIRAN, Western Washington University, USA

Though estimates of the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean slave trades are rudimentary and may entail a significant margin of error, a prominent scholar of slavery (M. Klein) estimated that between 1400 A.D. and 1900 A.D., approximately 1.5 million slaves were exported from the Ethiopian region. In the past two decades, research on the African diaspora has greatly expanded from its well-established focus on the northern Atlantic to Latin America, as well as the Islamic and Indian Ocean worlds. As a result, new studies on slavery and, more broadly, the African presence – past and present – in Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the Gulf, Iran and South Asia make it possible to shed greater light on those individuals who were forced out of northeastern Africa and dispersed across this large area of the world. Espousing a broad and flexible definition of the concept of diaspora, this paper proposes to selectively draw on this new scholarship to assess the state of our knowledge of the experiences of Northeast Africans in the eastern Mediterranean region, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and South Asia. I will address such themes as demographic aspects, slave labor and occupations, the social lives of slaves, racial categorizations, strategies of integration, the development of diasporic identities and creole cultures, cultural practices and performance, and manumission and freedom. The paper adopts a comparative, transnational and global perspective on the study of slavery and post-slavery and is inscribed in new efforts to animate the study of this subject in the context of Northeast Africa and bring it into conversation with the historiographies of the Middle East and the Indian Ocean world.