Transition from Slavery in Zanzibar and Mauritius. Abdul Sheriff, Vijayalakshmi Teelock, Saada Omar Wahab & Satyendra Peerthum. CODESRIA, Dakar, 2016, 180p., ISBN : 978-2-86978-680-6Number of visits: 8600
This book presents a comparative history of slavery and the transition from slavery to free labour in Zanzibar and Mauritius, within the context of a wider comparative study of the subject in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds. Both countries are islands, with roughly the same size of area and populations, a common colonial history, and both are multicultural societies. However, despite inhabiting and using the same oceanic space, there are differences in experiences and structures which deserve to be explored. In the nineteenth century, two types of slave systems developed on the islands – while Zanzibar represented a variant of an Indian Ocean slave system, Mauritius represented a variant of the Atlantic system – yet both flourished when the world was already under the hegemony of the global capitalist mode of production.
This comparison, therefore, has to be seen in the context of their specific historical conjunctures and the types of slave systems in the overall theoretical conception of modes of production within which they manifested themselves, a concept that has become unfashionable but which is still essential. The starting point of many such efforts to compare slave systems has naturally been the much-studied slavery in the Atlantic region which has been used to provide a paradigm with which to study any type of slavery anywhere in the world. However, while Mauritian slavery was 100 per cent colonial slavery, slavery in Zanzibar has been described as ‘Islamic slavery’. Both established plantation economies, although with different products, Zanzibar with cloves and Mauritius with sugar, and in both cases, the slaves faced a potential conflictual situation between former masters and slaves in the post-emancipation period.
Another interesting focus in this book is the largely unresearched subject of female slaves. In Zanzibar, the privileged role of the suria whose status was defined by Sharia law was explored; and in Mauritius, the manumission of female slaves was explored as they formed the majority among manumitted slaves. The book will certainly prove helpful to those involved in comparing the Atlantic slave system with that of the Indian Ocean for the better understanding of both.
Abdul Sheriff obtained a PhD in African History at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and was Executive Director of the Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute. Professor Sheriff’s current research interest is on the history of Zanzibar, the Swahili coast and the Indian Ocean.
Vijayalakshmi Teelock teaches and researches Mauritian and Indian Ocean History at the University of Mauritius. She is Founder and Coordinator of the Centre for Research on Slavery and Indenture at the University of Mauritius.
Saada Omar Wahab is an Assistant Lecturer teaching and doing research on history at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA). She studied History at the University of Dar es Salaam.
Satyendra Peerthum, a part-time Lecturer in History at the University of Mauritius obtained his M.A. in History from the same University. He is now based in the Research Unit of the Aapravasi Ghat World Heritage Site in Port Louis, Mauritius.