Histoire sociale de l’Afrique orientale, de la mer Rouge et de l’océan Indien
Séance du 10 mars 2016, 15h à 18h
Salle des artistes, Rdc, 96 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris
Elke Stockreiter, American University, Washington, DC, Dept. of History
Islamic Law, Gender, and Social Change in Post-Abolition Zanzibar
This paper draws on Islamic court records to offer new insights into Zanzibar’s social and legal history during the British colonial period (1890-1963). Based on these hitherto unexplored sources, it revises our understanding of gender roles in a Muslim marriage and within the household. It further challenges studies on slavery and female exclusion from the economic and legal sphere on the East African coast, as the court records demonstrate the ubiquity and social acceptability of female economic agency. They also shed new light on litigants’ use of Islamic courts as well as on Muslim and British colonial officers’ approaches toward Islamic law. Although British interference with Zanzibar’s judiciary dates back to the early nineteenth century, the paper argues that Muslim judges maintained their autonomy within the sphere of family law throughout the colonial era. Contrary to the opinions of scholars and the Zanzibaris themselves, Muslim judges were advancing women’s and ex-slaves’ rights long before the post-colonial period, thereby indicating that class was a more important determinant of women’s identities than gender. The sources further allow us to better understand an important shift in Muslim identity that occurred in the colonial period : whereas Zanzibari Muslims had seen themselves primarily through the lens of religion in the nineteenth century, by the early twentieth century, after the vast majority of freed slaves had adopted Islam, they began to view themselves through the lens of ethnicity. The increasing focus on ethnicity, together with underlying tensions between former slave owners and newly freed slaves, contributed to the outbreak of the revolution of 1964, which ousted the Omani Arab oligarchy.
Ismail Warscheid, IRHT-CNRS
Translating normative discourse into social facts : Islamic legal literature and the making of society in premodern Western Africa (Mauritania, Mali, southern Algeria)
For several decades now, Islamic legal literature has been serving as a source for the social and cultural history of pre-modern Muslim societies. At the same time, a range of scholars has also raised important methodological caveats by stressing the fact that legal sources are foremost normative texts. When discussing local issues in the language of the fiqh, the intention of Muslim jurists is not so much to preserve the cultural memory of their communities as to think of these issues as a normative problem that, at one moment, has come up either as a case (rafaʿat al-nāzila) or as a generic question (masʾala). In my presentation, I would like to take a step further by examining how normative propositions elaborated by Muslim jurists from the Western Sahara between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries affected social interaction between local pastoral groups. Texts to be discussed are, among others, the Nawāzil of al-Sharīf Ḥamāh Allāh from Tishit (d. 1755), the Ghunya compiled in the Algerian Tuwat oasis during the first half of the nineteenth century, and the Kitāb al-Bādiya written by the Mauritanian nomadic scholar Muḥammad al-Māmī (d. 1865-6).