Enslavement in the Indian Ocean World

The ranked online journal HumaNetten has a recent thematic issue (No. 47) entitled “Enslavement in the Indian Ocean World”. It contains an introduction by Hans Hägerdal and four research articles on aspects of the history of slavery in southern and eastern Africa, Madagascar, India, and Sri Lanka. The Indian Ocean World is a concept that has been increasingly used by historians in recent decades and stresses the networks and connections between various parts of Africa, the Muslim world, South Asia and Southeast Asia. The contributions explore new ways of studying an under-researched subject from a variety of sources – demographic figures, ships’ diaries, legal sources, colonial administrative documents, and so on. In fact, millions of slaves were traded in the Indian Ocean World over the centuries, a theme much less known than the Transatlantic slave trade. The authors highlight the conceptual problems of defining slavery, as categories of unfree and coerced labour varied much between regions, and show how indigenous (African and Asian) and European-colonial perceptions of enslavement engaged with each other. Gendered issues are of interest here: in some contexts, enslaved women were preferred over males, and sometimes the other way round. A few of the studies also bring light on the cumbersome abolition process during the 19th century. The contributors include Michael Charles Reidy, Lodewijk Wagenaar, Filipa Ribeiro da Silva, and Akanksha Singh.