Despite growing attention to the history of slavery in the Indian Ocean and Indonesian Archipelago worlds, the debate on the nature or characteristics of slavery in these regions has been left largely unsettled. Whereas some scholars emphasize the existence of harsh forms of hereditary slavery similar to those found in the Americas, others argue that the nature of slavery in Asia was urban, statusbased, and milder than in the Atlantic world. This article explores case studies of slaves escaping in and around the Dutch East India Company (VOC) city of Cochin. Studying court records that bring to light the strategies and social networks of enslaved runaways provides new insights into the characteristics of slavery and the conditions of slaves in and around VOC-Cochin. The findings indicate that the social and everyday conditions under which slaves lived were highly diverse and shaped by the direct relations between slave and master, influenced by elements of trust, skill, and control. Relations of slavery nevertheless remained engrained by the recurrence of physical punishments and verbal threats, despite sometimes relatively open situations. This reminds us that easy dichotomies of "benign," "Asian," "household," or "urban" versus "European," "Atlantic," or "plantation" slavery obscure as much as they reveal.


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pp. 66-87
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