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CFP for MESA 2019: Exploring Freedom, Emancipation, and Manumission in the Middle East
Enslavement and related asymmetric systems of power are relationships that operate on multiple levels. These include, but are not limited to, the interpersonal, those negotiated within the social and cultural structure, linguistics, economy, and law. How systems of slavery are justified and maintained reaches deeply into the question of humanity. Institutions of slavery employ emotional, physical, and psychological controls to define enslaved peoples along a spectrum of human, yet “natural,” slaves and dehumanized, non-humans, to delineate the free from the unfree.
Scholars of slavery have focused on asymmetrical power relationships from antiquity to the present, yet what of freedom? Freedom, and the process by which an unfree person becomes free, is a similarly complex relationship with ancient roots. The concept of freedom is fluid cross-culturally, with significant variety among definitions for classes of “free” people and language for the act of moving from enslaved to free. Freedom has often been positioned in opposition to slavery; however, the purpose of manumission historically has not been to create social equality. Like slavery, freedom, manumission, emancipation, and abolition require significant social and psychological changes to the individual, slaver, and society as relationships are renegotiated. The resulting outcome creates a new status for the formerly enslaved, often with a different set of labels, social connections and varying levels of integration. These processes are ongoing today, and remain incomplete.
This panel seeks new research on the institution of freedom in Islamicate societies from the seventh to the twentieth centuries. It invites papers that engage freedom, the process of freedom through emancipation and manumission, and abolition through different historical, legal, religious, literary and other disciplinary lenses. Particular areas of interest include, but are not limited to how these concepts interact with origin, genealogy, race/ethnicity, social mobility, gender, political agency, labor, sexual ethics, nationalism, colonialism, law, and the arts.
Please submit an abstract of 300 to 400 words and a CV to Kathryn Hain (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Lisa Nielson (email@example.com) by Friday, February 8, 2019. When submitting your abstract, please use MESA 2019 in the subject line. Participants will receive panel decisions by February 13, 2019. Panelists will be required to upload their abstract to the MESA site before February 15, 2019. You must have a current MESA membership by this date in order to submit an abstract. MESA makes decisions about the program by the end of April 2019. The MESA annual conference takes place this year in New Orleans, Louisiana, November 14 – 17, 2019.