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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the profound impact enslaved women had on medieval Islamic political institutions and ideologies. It begins by reviewing scholarly literature on the concubine queens who ruled several Islamic polities and the wealthy courtesans who composed poetry and song in the Abbasid court. It then provides a new analysis of how enslaved women in early Islamic society indirectly shaped notions of family, lineage, and ethnicity. Particularly, it argues that enslaved women are crucial to historical debates about what it means to be an “Arab” in a heterogeneous Islamic empire. Throughout, the chapter suggests ways to read male-authored texts against the grain; it suggests expanding the notion of political thought beyond the realm of formal, theoretical treatises; and it challenges scholars to ground their understanding of Islamic political thought in Islamic texts and vocabularies themselves, instead of foisting their preconceived notions of politics onto such texts.

Keywords: gender, slavery, Islamic political thought, jawārī, qiyān, concubines, courtesans, harem, Arabness

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