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Course Information

Instructor Info:Rachel Engmann
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Wednesday
01:00 PM - 03:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) WLH

This course explores Islam, the slave trade and slavery in Africa. The slave trade and slavery is an often-unacknowledged tradition in the 'Islamic world'. We will begin by examining Qur'anic and Islamic jurisprudence regarding slavery. Then, against the backdrop of slavery in early Islamic empires, we will proceed to slavery in East, West and Southern Africa, and the African Diaspora. Including readings from archaeology, history and anthropology, the course will explore the ways in which local interpretations of Islam influenced understandings of slavery by situating them within specific historical, political, socio-cultural and geographic locales. Examining the connections between Islam and slavery, and more specifically, labor, rebellion and manumission, we will also explore the role of the enslaved as rulers, soldiers and concubines. In addition, we will enrich our understandings of Islam and contemporary slavery in Africa.

Course Objectives:

Course Requirements

There are no prerequisites for the course.  Students are expected to attend all class lectures and complete all assigned readings.  This course will combine lecture with discussions of the readings.  Lectures will highlight the major issues raised in the readings as well as provide supplementary examples.  The course is designed to develop skills in close reading. 

In this course, students are expected to spend at least six hours a week of preparation and work outside of class time.  This time includes reading, writing, group assignments, creative projects and an occasional film.

All readings listed for the week should be completed prior to class meetings.  Readings will be examined more fully during class discussion.  General questions to think about concerning the readings will be provided each week in class and posted on the course website.  Come to class prepared to discuss readings thoughtfully, critically and respectfully.  Everyone’s views and perspectives deserve to be heard.

Work will be assessed through class participation (20%), two class presentations (15 mins each, 40%) and final research paper (12 pages, 40%).  The course provides a supportive environment in which to practice your skills at written exposition, classroom debate and public presentations.  Class presentations should be formal and polished, reflecting critical reading and demonstrating the significance for our discussion.  The schedule for class presentations will be determined in the third week of class.  Final paper topics must be approved in advance by the instructor.  The final research paper will be due on April 23, 2014 . 


Course Texts

Lecture readings to be done by the beginning of the week assigned.

Readings will be available on reserve at library and on a password-protected forum on a website established in association with this seminar.


Additional Info:


‘Mauritania: Slavery’s last stronghold’, CNN

‘Born Slave’, Helen Aastrup-Samuels and Bo Harringer

‘Prince Among Slaves’, Bill Duke and Andrea Kalin