Tell This in my Memory : Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Empire
(Stanford University Press) is a study of slavery, liberation, and remembrance between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries. Examines the mechanisms of enslavement and emancipation through narratives told by captive and their descendants as well as European missionaries.
The power of the narrative Eve Troutt-Powell puts forward is further strengthened by the fact that she looks at slavery through a global lense integrating histories of Europe and the Atlantic with African, Egyptian, Circassian, and Ottoman history by not imposing upon it geographical limits imposed by a specific field of study, The author brings forth a fresh and integrated perspective on the slave trade.
The framework of racial identity constructed through these stories proves instrumental in explaining how countries in a post 19th century middle east confronted or didn’t the legacy of the slave trade. Today, these imprinted memories of slavery live on for contemporary refugees whose forced migrations often replicate the journeys and stigmas faced by slaves in the nineteenth century.
The book presents an interesting easy read, where key ideas are not lost in academic jargon.It speaks to an audience beyond those studying middle east history and culture . The author asks probing questions about the lives and stories of slaves through perceptive readings of chronicles, memoirs, photographs, and other sources.It explores the geographic, spiritual and personal stories of enslaved people.
Furthermore the book, acts as living memory as it not only explores the stories of slaves but also the memories of people who owned or were slaves. By exploring these narratives as such Troutt-Powell has chosen to show readers the choices her subjects made, the lives they were forced to lead, and the ways in which they came to accept their fate.
The book aims to humanize the experiences of silenced people and stories that would not have otherwise been heard and these narrative are only brought alive by not limiting the narrative to the enslaved but also using the voices of those who enslaved. In doing so she offers valuable insights into how slaves interpret foreigners and how foreigners understand or misunderstand them.
Troutt- Powell uses several other “fragments of autobiography” to illustrate the point that narratives, where they do exist, are subject to the filters and prejudices of the translator, the interviewer, or the intended reader. Often they do not help and, on occasion, they can even degrade the person telling the story.
Eve M. Troutt Powell
is associate professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a contributor to Race and Slavery in the Middle East: Histories of Trans-Saharan Africans in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Mediterranean
Yasmine Al Bastaki is a Masters Student at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy studying International Affairs and Diplomacy. She has a general interest in M.E.N.A studies and issues of Identity. She can be reached at email@example.com. Listener’s feedback, questions and book suggestions are most welcome.