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Slavery, Freedom, and Women’s Bodies
Camilla Cowling. Conceiving Freedom: Women of Color, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. xii + 326 pp.; ill. ISBN 978-1-4696-1087-0 (cl); 978-1-4696-1088-7 (pb).
Sarah Franklin. Women and Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuba. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2012. xi + 223 pp.; ill. ISBN 978-1-58046-402-4 (cl).
Mary Frederickson and Delores Walters, eds. Gendered Resistance: Women, Slavery, and the Legacy of Margaret Garner. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013. xvii + 234 pp.; ill. ISBN 978-0-252-03790-0 (cl); 978-0-252-07942-9 (pb).
Madeline Zilfi. Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xii + 281 pp.; ill. ISBN 978-0-521-51583-2 (cl); 978-1-107-41145-6 (pb).

The recent body-centered analytical turn in slavery scholarship has yielded fresh insights into the centrality of the female body to slave resistance and slavery’s ideological foundations.1 By focusing on the womb, each of the books under review reveals the significance of the reproductive body to the entrenchment and destruction of slavery. Because women’s reproductive ability threatened the social order, elite men enacted regulations to preserve the status quo. Sometimes, the subjugated populations who had different ideas about childbearing fought for bodily and maternal autonomy. At other times, they appropriated elites’ gendered expectations to fit their quests for freedom. While the womb was the single most important symbol in struggles over freedom and slavery, these authors also investigate contests over the body’s adornment, movement, and sexual contact, arriving at novel conclusions on how bodies shaped domination and resistance.

Camilla Cowling’s Conceiving Freedom most directly studies how the womb shaped contests over freedom and slavery. From the enactment of partus sequitur ventrem, the legal code adopted by New World colonies stipulating that children shared their mothers’ status, to the nineteenth century Free Womb Laws of Cuba and Brazil, enslaved women understood that [End Page 177] elites exploited their reproductive capacity. With significant limitations, the 1870 Moret Law in Cuba and the 1871 Rio Branco Law in Brazil promised freedom to children born of enslaved women. In both territories the laws were ambiguous and silent on many important issues. Women battled with slave owners and city officials over legal restrictions and contradictions to ensure that their children gained the freedom that these laws promised to them. What is fascinating about Conceiving Freedom is its rich documentation of how enslaved women, using scribes and political connections, filed legal claims. These women, remarkably, used legal suits even when the laws disempowered them. Many were strategic in their quests, they put slave owners’ and officials’ reputations at risk and manipulated customs and emergent beliefs about motherhood. Imploring servants of the courts and members of the royal family to “put yourself in my place,” petitioners received aid from among the highest and most prestigious officials, including the imperial family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (80).

The second section of Conceiving Freedom demonstrates that women of color framed their appeals to maternal ideals within the political climate of the nineteenth century. Brazil and Cuba were hubs of growing and influential abolitionist campaigns. Like their American and British predecessors, Latin American abolitionists highlighted how slavery denied black women the rights and experiences of motherhood, their sacred duty. Depicting the most heartbreaking scenes of family separation through literature, speeches, and graphic illustrations, abolitionists singled out the separation of mothers and children as one of slavery’s most egregious assaults on womanhood. Women petitioners borrowed this tactic of emotional manipulation and sometimes received abolitionist support during legal proceedings. Although Conceiving Freedom convincingly establishes how the social and cultural environment shaped enslaved and freed women’s claims, it is not equally clear how women of color influenced abolitionists. Teasing out their impact on abolitionism would bolster Cowling’s argument that women claimants shaped the unfolding of emancipation. Conceiving Freedom reveals that although most women did not succeed in freeing their children, their suits did compel officials to extend certain prohibitions reserved for enslaved women to freed women. Cuba’s Moret Law, for example, prohibited the separation of enslaved mothers and children, but remained silent on whether such provisions extended to freed women whose children remained enslaved.

Cowling’s argument, that women’s manipulation of the law and city officials helped to secure their children’s freedom, marks an important intervention in the literature that focuses on how women used sexual favors as pathways to freedom. Cities like Havana and Rio de Janeiro created unique conditions that increased the possibilities of freedom for women and their children. While city living did not guarantee emancipation, the blurred lines [End Page 178] between freedom and slavery combined with slaves’ greater mobility in urban settings to aid their quest for liberty. The city housed royal families and officials powerful enough to enact the changes women sought. In an urban environment, moreover, women had greater opportunities to earn wages, socialize, and weave networks that brought together kinship, information, and political connection in service of liberation struggles. Conceiving Freedom not only marks an important departure in scholarship about slavery that focuses on rural plantation culture, it also challenges the common correlation between sex, money, and emancipation. Instead of trading their bodies, Cowling brilliantly shows how enslaved women orchestrated emancipation through an astute manipulation of the cities’ amenities.

Legal battles over freedom emerged partly because of the conflicting visions enslaved women, planters, public officials, and abolitionists held of emancipation. The third section of the book examines how elites’ conceptualizations of freedom departed from those held by women of color. Many male public officials and abolitionists saw all women as mothers and wives in households headed by men. Freed black husbands therefore would take the place of slave owners by wielding power and authority over freed women and children. Other elites, however, regarded black women as incapable of being good mothers, and therefore reserved motherhood for white women. Even so, like white women, the home was still the place for black women, not as mothers and wives but as workers. The municipal educational projects proposed by public officials in Rio de Janeiro to order free society reflected these gender ideals. Domestic science and personal hygiene featured prominently in planned curriculum for freed women. Those who extolled republican motherhood—the belief that women played key roles in guiding future generations—thought that education should prepare mothers to instill the desired values in their children. Whereas elites disagreed on the societal place of women of color, they agreed that women of color were subordinate to white women. White women were model mothers and could teach non-whites how to become good mothers.

Limited by their focus on women who gave birth, Cowling argues that officials and lawmakers missed the richness of black motherhood. For many women of color, mothering extended beyond corporeality to include such intangibles as the love and protection of community members, adoptive kin, and brotherhoods. Important questions like children’s custody and place of residence were absent from elites’ concerns, but were quotidian issues for newly freed people. Maternal figures assumed guardianship of girls’ sexuality and pursued legal channels to defend the honor of girls raped and deflowered. Freedom shifted the site of struggle over female sexuality from slave owners to parents and community elders. Women of color saw in freedom protection from unwanted sexual encounters and increased rights over their bodies. [End Page 179]

The right to protect women and girls from sexual violence, which was an important consideration for Brazilian and Cuban women of color, is a central organizing theme for the essays in Frederickson and Walters’ edited collection, Gendered Resistance. Their volume centers on the 1856 Cincinnati, Ohio case in which the fugitive enslaved woman Margaret Garner made the unthinkable decision to kill her four children and herself rather than suffer re-enslavement and separation. Garner succeeded in slashing her daughter’s throat but could not complete her mission of taking she and her sons’ lives because slave catchers caught up with her. Pivoting around Garner’s act, the essays examine how motherhood and sexuality shaped the strategies women deployed against slavery in historical as well as contemporary contexts. Like other scholarship examining Garner’s case, these essays grapple with the interiority of enslaved women’s choices; they argue that slave mothers’ intimate understanding of the double oppression of blackness and femaleness propelled them to protect their daughters first.

Mary Frederickson, an editor and contributor to Gendered Resistance, makes this argument in her essay that narrates the life of the enslaved woman Elizabeth Clark Gaines. Gaines received her freedom but continued working in slave-like conditions in order to secure freedom for her son Elliot. A dying master gave freedom to Gaines and all but one of her children. Departing from Cowling’s work that shows women’s manipulation of political connections, Frederickson speculates that Gaines secured freedom because of her long-term sexual liaison with her owner. Elliot would not receive his freedom until he turned twenty-one years old, however, and it hinged on whether he pleased his master, the heir of Gaines’ owner. In her quest to remove Elliot from bondage, Gaines made several calculated choices. She took her two daughters and moved from the slave state of Kentucky to the free state of Ohio; living in a slave state cast a specter of re-enslavement over the Gaines women. Meanwhile, Gaines also left her free, nineteen-year old son Michael as Elliot’s protector—a role we are not entirely certain of since Frederickson does not elaborate on how Michael, a freed black boy, could protect his enslaved brother. After twelve years, when Elliot turned twenty-one, he received his promised freedom, and the boys travelled on their own to reunite with their family. Opting to leave her sons in bondage and have them travel alone through territory infested with slave catchers was risky. Gaines nevertheless calculated that such a gamble was less costly than risking the re-enslavement of herself and her girls. Her firsthand understanding of masters’ violation of women’s bodies perhaps persuaded her to safeguard freedom for herself and her daughters. Frederickson implicitly concludes that, like Garner, Gaines prioritized protecting her girls over her boys because they were more vulnerable. [End Page 180]

Buried beneath the details of Gaines’ maneuvers towards freedom is an important question of how much slave mothers’ resistance hinged on protecting their children. The contribution by Cheryl LaRoche touches on this question, inviting historians to rethink gendered assumptions about how children influenced mothers’ decisions to flee slavery. Her chapter counters the flawed conclusion that mothers did not often run away because they refused to leave their children behind. For some women, it was unfathomable to abandon their sons and daughters in slavery. Others, however, found it necessary to leave their children in the care of relatives while they escaped to freedom, promising to return for them later on. Harriet Jacobs, for instance, left her children in the care of their white father and their great-grandmother. Jacobs’s decision defied her grandmother’s admonition “stand by your own children … nobody respects a mother who forsakes her children” (64). Here LaRoche makes an important intervention in the historiography, albeit too briefly. She shows that some women “rejected the prevailing societal and maternal dictates, and escaped alone, leaving family and children under the tyranny of slavery”(64). Motherhood indeed did not imprint on all women equally. Yet by not clarifying whether the great-grandmother who admonished Jacobs was white or black, free, or enslaved, LaRoche also misses an opportunity to explore how race and other experiences shaped community members’ expectations of mothers. A black grandparent might reflect what scholars have emphasized as West African kinship value, which defined motherhood as a sacred duty that community elders insisted on, whereas a white grandparent’s privileged life of freedom might have rendered her insensitive to the plight of enslaved mothers.

Similar to the women in Cowling’s study of Brazil and Cuba, the North American women in Gendered Resistance also played into gendered expectations of their day to enact subversion. Garner’s actions surprised many Antebellum Americans because no one expected a mother, presumably self-sacrificing and protective, to kill her own child. Veta Tucker’s essay shows other women who used gender (assumptions about masculinity and femininity) subversively. Mary Ellen Pleasant adopted a male persona to build her fortunes and recruit supporters for John Brown’s raid, while Mary Elizabeth Bowser and Harriet Tubman used the guise of false female identities to hide in plain sight. Bowser assumed the role of an enslaved domestic worker to enter the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and funneled secrets to the Union Army. Tubman posed as a frail old woman, singing gospel by the wayside, as she smuggled fugitives to freedom. Acting out their expected subservient roles as women meant that no one questioned Bowser or Tubman.

Due largely to the secrecy of Pleasant, Bowser, and Tubman’s missions, few sources have verified their actions. Beholden to empirical proof, historians [End Page 181] only reluctantly study how these women’s lives subverted gender norms. Kristine Yohe’s contribution offers a welcomed discussion of how artists and novelists, unconstrained by sources, explore human experiences through fictional lives set within historical moments. Without the need for verification, fictional narratives like Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Watkins Harper’s The Slave Mother lend truth to the anguish of slave mothers and the logic behind their choices. Quoting Morrison, Yohe argues that art can reveal emotions hidden from the archives; “the historical Margaret Garner,” Morrison explained, “is fascinating, but, to a novelist, confining. Too little imaginative space there for my purpose. So I would invent her thoughts, plumb them for a subtext that was historically true in essence, but not strictly factual in order to relate her history to contemporary issues about freedom, responsibility, and women’s ‘place’”(107).

The artists’ liberty to invent speaks to the frustration expressed by the contributors Diana Williams and Raquel de Souza. In their essays, Williams and de Souza challenge popular misrepresentations of black female sexuality. Williams argues that films portraying quadroon balls distort and romanticize them as sites for blissful cross-racial courtship that culminated in marriage. As a staple of antebellum New Orleans plantation culture, quadroon balls were social gatherings or receptions attended by mixed-raced free women and white men that facilitated courtship and negotiated long-term sexual partnerships. Although women gained material and financial support through the arrangements initiated at the balls, Williams emphasizes that quadroon women were victimized at these gatherings by the desires of white men. Even where black women exercised agency, by freely attending quadroon balls and exchanging sex for personal and economic gain, they did so in the context of obedience to white male authority and demands, turning black sexuality into an exploitable commodity. Notwithstanding women’s acquisitions of wealth and status, Williams argues, they did what was expected of them and were therefore simultaneously victims and agents.

De Souza focuses on the story of Chica da Silva, an eighteenth century Brazilian woman of color who secured manumission and socioeconomic mobility by manipulating her lover, a wealthy Portuguese mining contractor. Brazilian pop culture portrays da Silva and other black women as “sexually available, irrationally trading [their] body for favor … [and] incapable of negotiating through reason” (179). Rehearsing racist and sexist stereotypes rooted in slavery, da Silva’s character—as found in carnival themes, songs, theatres, plays, movies, and soap operas—exhibits little historical accuracy. Following the arguments of Kristine Yohe and Toni Morrison, de Souza might make a bigger point beyond the lack of historical accuracy. Filmmakers, lyricists, and novelists are not historians and therefore need not adhere [End Page 182] to historical methodology. To provoke debate and discussion around larger issues on historical fiction, as Morrison frames it, should be “historically true in essence, [if] not strictly factual” (107).

Although western historical and popular narratives frequently imply that trading ones’ body for freedom and material gain made black women immoral, they also assume that this sexual exchange made Ottoman slavery benign. Yet Madeline Zilfi’s Slavery in the Ottoman Empire challenges the conclusion that slavery in the Ottoman Empire was less brutal than Atlantic World chattel slavery. Zilfi argues convincingly that the experience of Ottoman slaves was a more tortured reality than historians have previously recognized, even if slaves had greater access to emancipation, social mobility, and political eminence. Slave owners considered such intimate slaves as concubines, house workers, and harem girls, their family bejeweling them with the accouterments of their wealth. In some cases, like that of Hurrem (also known as Roxelna) the wife of Sultan Suleyman I (1520–1566) concubines married their masters. Even so, Zilfi demonstrates that beloved slaves suffered alienation when their owners stripped them of connections to their natal kin and social identifiers (like their names). Like slaves of the corvée, galleys, and maritime work gangs, domestic slaves were vulnerable to sale, subjected to their masters’ caprice, and unlike family members, did not inherit their masters’ estates. Ottoman slaves, Zilfi rightly insists, “might be loved and nurtured as sons or daughters, but as salable commodities they were neither” (161).

Despite the importance of this comparative work, Zilfi’s overt attention to debates about the nature of slavery in the Ottoman Empire versus the Atlantic World distracts from the book’s primary goals. Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire aims to explore the nature of women’s subordination and understand the imperial state’s commitment to a gender order that privileged men. It also seeks to examine how male privilege and female subordination connected to other binaries—including slave versus free, Muslim versus non-Muslim, commoners versus elites, and inhabitants of the Abode of War versus the Abode of Islam.2 The book ultimately hopes to explain how emergent gender politics and gender relations shaped Ottoman modernization and reforms in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and, while its goals are very ambitious, it does not always succeed in achieving them. Most frustrating for the reader is the incongruence between what the book’s title promises and what it delivers. Despite promising themes of women and slavery the book falls short of its title, marred by fragile connective tissues. The reader must painstakingly suture the sinews of the book.

Within this general history of slavery and imperial transformations in the Ottoman Empire, Zilfi makes some important conclusions about the changing importance of female slaves. As the eighteenth century waxed, [End Page 183] female slaves became more valued than male ones, reversing centuries’ old traditions. Despite the imperial insistence that only enslaved men fulfilled the military and bureaucratic needs of the empire, the preference for male slaves was not as overwhelming as official rhetoric suggested. Slave pricing indicates there was almost a gender balance in slave populations during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Ottoman military losses and the shift from slave soldiers to armies of free men by the second half of the eighteenth century disrupted gender equilibrium. Elites, wealthy individuals, and households supplanted the imperial state as the main consumer of slaves, most of whom were females. Slave ownership displayed wealth, status, and power. The eighteenth-century transition towards a female-centered slavery also witnessed the increased importance of women as slave brokers, dealers, and market inspectors. Women traders played a special role in assessing slaves’ health, particularly relating to fertility and virginity. Yet even as women’s presumed skill in detecting childbearing histories and lost virtue acquired new importance in the slave market, women in public were troubling to officials and fellow traders who viewed their presence in the marketplace as immoral and unsavory.

Criticisms of female slave handlers were part of a much broader narrative about women in public and Ottoman elites’ regulations of women’s bodies and presence. Ottoman patriarchal authority rested on subordinating non-Muslims and all women, regardless of their social or religious identity. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, new ordinances required distinctive attires for faith communities and mandatory coverage wear for women no matter their religious affiliation. That male Ottoman officials did not enforce sumptuary regulations for non-Muslim men with the same vigor as rules for Muslim and non-Muslim women illuminates the Ottoman state’s repugnance towards the female body. Unlike Muslim men whose religious and gender status protected them from regulations, Muslim women, like non-Muslims, were subject to clothing restrictions. In addition to the new, more restrictive clothing regulations from the eighteenth century onwards, the imperial state drew boundaries around women’s physical mobility and public gathering. Prohibitions on women entering and sitting in shops and limitations on their use of certain modes of transportation secured the “masculine gendering of public space” and communicated male superiority and dominance (73). Sumptuary regulations enforced these prohibitions and reinforced social ranking.

Like the men of the Ottoman Empire who relied on religion to create gender hierarchies, Cuban patriarchs similarly appealed to religious authority to determine social order. Yet unlike the Ottomans in Zilfi’s book, who were interested primarily in distinguishing between Muslim and non-Muslim, Sarah Franklin’s discussion of Cuban patriarchy suggests they [End Page 184] spent more time redesigning theology. In Women and Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Colonial Cuba, Franklin argues that Catholicism was the foundation upon which Cuban patriarchy rested. Rooted in marianismo, the belief that women were spiritually and morally superior to men, the prescribed duty for women was to care for their husbands and their families. As mothers and wives, women were to emulate the Virgin Mary, the divine mother elevated above saints and sitting just below God—sentiments known as mariology. From an early age, public school teachers taught Cuban girls to strive towards purity, humility, holiness, and fertility, the defining qualities of Mary’s divinity. The author examines this expectation of women through catechisms as well as such secular texts as novels and travel narratives that mostly privileged men. Franklin argues that these texts authored by men did not reflect the worldviews of black, mixed-race, and lower-class women. Similar to Franklin’s argument that Cuban elites denied that black people could be virtuous, when black and colored Cubans esteemed virginity, the distinction she makes between elite women’s views and those held by their husbands and fathers could be brought more sharply into focus. All Cuban women, regardless of race and class were subjected to masculine prescriptions.

Cuban elite interest in maintaining female virginal purity came at a time of rapid growth in the island’s African population. This “darkening” of Cuba triggered concerns about purity of the blood and the “usurping of heirs” (58). Sexual contact between white women and black men brought shame and dishonor to husbands and granted black men and their offspring illicit access to family (white) property. Cuban patriarchs’ anxiety about the corrupting potential of women’s bodies through interracial sex also extended to include social positioning. The belief that women were naturally inferior to men lost footing due to concerns about gender, race, and the hierarchical order; elite white men feared that ideas about female inferiority could be misconstrued to mean that black men were superior to white women and thus equal to white men. Educational opportunities therefore expanded for white females. The promotion of education for white girls was not without restrictions, however. Driven by fear of lessons that did not adhere to gender prescriptions, the state banned education at home and supported curricula that fitted women for roles as homemakers, wives, and mothers. This curriculum favored domestic teachings, household management, and care for children over math and science. Educational reforms, Franklin contends, elevated white women above black men but kept them subordinated to white men.

To further its aim of protecting and strengthening white patriarchy as well as white privilege and black subordination, the Cuban state extended charity to low-income whites. Poor relief singled out young white girls [End Page 185] whose bodies were pure. Designated as educados, young girls taken in by charities received lessons in cooking, cleaning, and sewing, which would prepare them for their expected gender roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers. At the end of their education, typically around twenty-one years of age, educados received a dowry that made them eligible for marriage—their rightful place. The growing number of educados, however, made it impossible for charities to provide them all with a dowry. Many instead received placements in domestic service, working in the homes of wealthy families. Poor relief granted to whites, Franklin concludes, seemed to affirm white superiority and the subordination of white women within the home. By exploring the ways in which colonial elites used charity to bolster white supremacy, Franklin makes a key argument, which is overlooked in the literature—that poverty embodied a threat to white supremacy and slavery.3 Preventing their impoverishment and reliance on non-whites for aid reduced the threat white women’s wombs posed to racial purity.

Nowhere was the use of women’s bodies to protect slavery and bolster white male authority more evident than in the commodification of black women’s reproductive ability. Turning attention to wet nurses as a special category of laborers, often an area of historiographical neglect, Franklin argues that slaveholders appropriated black fertility as a marketable commodity. New mothers were traded among slaveholders to work as wet-nurses. Noting that wet nursing was “the exclusive purview of women” and was, therefore, “the most gendered of labors,” Franklin forces scholars to reconsider the uses of the black female body (134). By working as wet nurses, black women’s laboring bodies extended beyond the drudgery of the field. Here, however, Franklin misses a key opportunity to make a bigger intervention. By arguing that “wet-nursing was not a ‘skill’ that could be learned in the way that washing and ironing could,” Franklin naturalizes work associated with the body (134). Scholars of the body argue that rituals, interventions, and techniques performed on the body to make it function in a certain way make practices associated with the body anything but natural. The work of historian Kathleen Brown, who proposes the concept “body work” as a framework to explore how bodies acquired meaning through domestic labor and care, would be especially helpful to make the argument that the drudge status mapped onto black female bodies was also made through domestic and intimate practices like wet nursing.4 Examining how black women’s maternal and reproductive labor commanded market value and were included in skill labor accounting further exposes as myth the notion of Southern households as private spaces, shielded from public, economic concerns. Plantation households were workplaces in which such intimate activities as breastfeeding were deemed skilled labor and commanded a price. In the advertisements Franklin cites, buyers demanded women [End Page 186] with “abundant milk,” yet, out of concerns for health and hygiene, others were weary of black wet nurses (134, 140). Such requirements suggest that enslaved women or their masters devised techniques purportedly to boost milk production and make black bodies clean and healthy enough to nurse white babies. Wet nursing was not natural and has a history. Franklin’s attention to wet nursing and its categorization as skilled labor, nevertheless, marks an important departure that will inform future historical debates.

Taken as a whole, the four books spark several key debates, including: How important were sexual relations—as opposed to access to and manipulation of knowledge, use of court systems, and the dictates of connected elites—in changing the fates of enslaved women? How did women optimize the quotidian to secure greater autonomy over their bodies, families, and lives? What roles do space and movement play in slave resistance? How common was it for slave mothers to protect their daughters over their sons? How did the meanings enslaved people gave to freedom differ from those held by officials, and how did such contested meanings shape the unfolding of emancipation? In their divergent approaches and conclusions, these books extend the debates about the centrality of women’s bodies to freedom and slavery and have much to teach us about how corporeality informed complex and disparate experiences of enslavement.

Sasha Turner

SASHA TURNER is an associate professor of history at Quinnipiac University. She is interested in social and cultural histories of the Caribbean, with emphasis on women, children, and the body. Her book, Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), examines struggles for the control, regulation, and reward of biological reproduction as they played out in the working and intimate lives of enslaved women and children. She is currently working on a new project that chronicles the emotional lives of white women in colonial Jamaica.


1. Stephanie M.H. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

2. Ottoman leaders, in theory, divided the world in two: Abode of War (Dar el-Harb) and Abode of Islam (Dar el-Islam). Within this division Dal el-Islam was superior and ranked everything and everyone that was non-Muslim as its inferior. In political terms, this division viewed the non-Muslim states, like those of Christian Russia and Europe during the time of the Ottoman Empire, as its subordinate. Similar to western racial dualities that elevated white and debased black, everyday life within the Ottoman Empire imposed hierarchies and divisions according to religion and faith. In reality, and much like the west, Muslim/non-Muslim boundaries blurred through intimacies, cultural osmosis, economic ties, and political maneuverings. Zilfi addresses these stratifications on pages 8 and 9.

3. Cecily Jones, Engendering Whiteness: White Women and Colonialism in Barbados and North Carolina, 1627–1865 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007); Lucille Mathurin Mair, A Historical Study of Women in Jamaica, 1655–1844 (Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 2006).

4. Kathleen Brown, Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009). [End Page 187]