African Diaspora Forum | Graduate Students
|African Diaspora Forum|
|Topic: Slavery and Gender in the Indian Ocean|
| I am a population geneticist working at Pasteur Institute in Paris. I have done a genetic study on a
small African community living in Pakistan: the Makrani or Sheedi. I have studied the maternal and
paternal genes of this community and an interesting result has come out. More than 40% of the
MATERNAL gene pool of this community is of African derivation, but ONLY 8% of their
PATERNAL gene pool is of African derivation. Moreover, by comparing their DNA sequences
with a, extended African database, we have found that most of their sequences matches with East
Africans and, particularly, with Mozambique. This genetic pattern is in agreement with historical
evidence of East-African slave trade, since Makran belonged to the Sultanate of Oman. However,
how to explain that the paternal African genes have been lost? I have read that most of the
East-African slave trade was made of females and that the male to female ration was of 3 to 1.
Moreover, I have read that a significant amount of male slaves were castrated. In any case, since I
am a geneticist, the source of information I have about Indian Ocean slave trade are very poor.
Since you are an specialist, I would be extremely grateful if you could send me some paper about
East-African slave trade and the male/female issues. It would be even better if you could send it to
me as attachment.
If you are not able to send me anything, could you please tell which "serious" reference I could cite
for the fact of the different male/female ration in the east-African slave trade?
|Dear Dr. Quintana-Murci,
Thank you for your enquiry and the information contained therein. The pattern that you seem to be
describing suggests a high incidence of concubinage. Islamic law and in most places the actual
practice as well held that the children of concubines were free and were to be treated the same way
as the children of free-born wives. So in one sense your findings confirm what we know about the
incidence of concubinage.
It is harder to make a judgement about what happened to the males. First, we really don't know the
actual gender ratios of the trade in the Indian Ocean and how these changed over time. Second, a
certain number of males were indeed eunuchs,which was an important trade and many either came
from East Africa or the interior of Ethiopia. Obviously,they don't show up in your data. Third, there
were many male slaves who never married or had any kind of permanent relationship that involved
parenting. Hence the tendency was for males not to have children. Fourth, the possibilities of children
being born to slave parents existed in agricultural settlements and in urban areas where some slaves
in Muslim areas had possibilities of working on their own and paying their masters an income. Many
of such slaves in these positions were male, and they would have had spouses and hence most
I don't think there is a single source to cite, but it is an important topic that can be discussed using
comparative information on enslavement in other Muslim emirates.
|Edward Alpers, UCLA|
|First, Makran was NOT a part of the Omani empire, although it was clearly within the trading orbit
of the Bombay-Muscat-East Africa circuit. Next, what I know about the slave trade and slavery in
the Makran (Pakistan), as well as Gujarat, indicates that there was a good deal of miscegenation
between African slaves and South Asians. In particular, I have seen sources that suggest that African
males partnered with low caste South Asian Muslims and in some cases with Bhils (tribal people) in
the Makran and Gujarat. In that case, one would expect to find male African DNA in populations
that were not recognizably "African", like the Sheedis, whereas the results found by Dr.
Quintana-Murci accord well with the opposite set of circumstances, i.e. African concubines in South
Asian households. These findings also raise very interesting issues about the role of matrilineality in
diaspora communities and who carries African culture, men or women. Sabir Badalkhan, who was
at our IOW conference, may be able to answer some of these questions for Dr. Quinitana-Murci. I
don't have his email address here at UCLA, but could send it from home.
It's great to see geneticists working on these populations and reminds me of the work Gwyn
Campbell has done with his South African colleagues on the genetic composition of certain Malagasy
populations, which also reveals Zambesian (Mozambique and Malawi) origins.
|Even more strange about this story is the fact that in Islamic societies the children take on the ethnicity of the male parent so the children of Pakistani fathers and Sheediyani mothers should have taken on whatever the father`s ethnicity (Pathan,Med etc).Furthermore one 19th century source tells us that such offspring were valued as spouses by men and would have been entitled to inherit.The perceived attractiveness of half-African females to non-Africans can be encountered in cultures from Brazil to Oman.In the latter case it was believed African blood added vigour to the line.While this tendency would explain the enthusiasm with which Paistani male genes would enter the pool the children should have had Pakistani ethnicity and married spouses of similar ethnicity.The only model which fits the evidence is that the children were reared by African women away from the Asiatic households hence the children identifying themselves as African.It suggests an environment were African women were fleeing the Asian domestic setting and there was high male mortality rate,a situation not incompatible with slavery. African men were also more likely to be used in the army and palace machinery hence the occurence of African rulers where as women were more likely to be in the domestic setting with a lower percentage of African men present.As for who transmits African culture most African societies are patriarchal contrary to popular belief.|
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