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Slavery: Negated Familial Ties Essay

1911 words - 8 pages

Even though slavery is a state of bondage, it has to do with relations between people. Most scholarly discourses that exist surrounding slavery recognize that bondage leads to a loss of identity as it curtails the ties of the slaves to their heritage. Sociologist Orlando Patterson’s definition of Slavery is applicable here, as he delineates slavery as "…a permanent, violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons." Thus, Slavery banned slaves from all formal, legally enforceable ties of “blood,” and from any attachment to groups or localities other than those chosen for them by the master. Slavery at the rudimentary level erased basic factors that defined one’s identities. The slave was always at the mercy of his master and was disposable at any moment in time. Keith Bradley’s definition of slavery further supports this claim as he contends, “By definition slaves were kinless and were permitted no legally sanctioned familial bonds.” Here the slave is socially dead as social ties between slaves are almost non-existent. Slavery radically disrupted kinship relations for the slaves uprooted from their communities. This is clearly the case in the studies of slavery in West Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and Rome, where the slave’s identities were inhibited by systemic means of isolating these individuals from all aspects of heritage, in a manner such as stripping away of their names, distancing them from their families and ancestors, and gendered control of women’s bodies. Restrained interactions of all aspects of the slave’s heritage are at the heart of social death.

Distance:
A necessary pre-requisite to enslavement was the distancing of the slaves from all aspects of their heritage. This often manifested in the physical isolation of the slaves from all aspects of their traditions and norms through their physical removal from their ancestral home lands. Buyers moved slaves from the area in which they captured them for fear of escape. Bradley states that slave captives often suffered from “shock of cultural disorientation as they journeyed from a familiar to an alien environment.” The African slaves in the Ottoman Empire were uprooted from their homes in Ethiopia, Sudan etc, which meant that they were disconnected from their lineage and traditions geographically inhibited any chances of access to their birth place. Furthermore, even within the slave society familial relations hardly existed as members of were sold to different buyers to ensure complete loyalty to the master alone. The Circassian agricultural slaves in the Ottoman Empire are a good example of this because their masters split them from their families to ensure the slave girls’ undivided loyalty. Furthermore, the slaves’ interactions within one another even within one home were extremely surveilled and reprimanded to hinder interactions between them, often through threats and violence (such as flogging).
Naming:
A slave’s new generated name also...

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