Accepted paper:

The freed slave behind the statesman: the writing strategies of General Husayn (1820s-1887)


M'hamed Oualdi (INALCO)

Paper short abstract:

Hiding his backgrounds as a slave from the margins of Islam and at the same time, shaping the image of a Statesman in North Africa, before dying in Florence in 1887: that was the main strategy of the general Husayn in his writings in Arabic language that I will seek to analyze in my paper.

Paper long abstract:

By the end of the 19th century, general Husayn was one of the last mamluks in the Muslim world. Trained and gathered originally in the first caliphs' entourage, in the 8th and the 9th centuries, the mamluks were mainly - but not only - slaves converted to Islam through the medieval and modern ages. Legally General Husayn was clearly one those mamluks as a slave and then a freed one. But he was not converted as he was born in the 1820s in an Islamic area of Caucasus, in Circassia. What was original about his trajectory though, was his education in Tunis: he was one of the first mamluks trained in a military school, learning European knowledge and Arabic language. Through his administrative letters, the aim here will be to understand to what extent the practices of writing were used by a former slave: how he did refer to his former legal status and how did he succeed to shape a public image linked to a broad political vision of Islam with the beginning of colonization of North Africa?

panel P161
Cultural productions in the context of slavery: slave narrative, narrative of the self and religious configurations