BCDSS Working Papers

Our “Working Papers” present results from ongoing research and contribute to current scholarly debate. They are conceptualized as “works in progress”. The aim of this publishing series is to stimulate debates on the new key concept of the Cluster, strong asymmetrical dependency. They are subject to an internal peer review.

Bethany J. Walker, Peasant Dependencies in Medieval Islam: Whose Agency in Food Production and Migration?

Abstract: Medieval feudalism, while it took different forms in different parts of the world, shared one common characteristic: the military, political, and economy foundations of society were constructed with peasant labor. The “state” could not exist, in this form, without a compliant peasantry. The everyday lives of peasants living in the pre-industrial world thus evokes images of immobility, servitude, and a legal and social status that remained static over time. The realities of peasant life in the Islamicate world, however, were quite different. This paper explores the marked inequalities of the mutually dependent relationships that developed between the Mamluk and Ottoman sultanates and peasant society, focusing on two areas of encounter and control that mattered most to both sets of actors: food production and peasant mobility in its many forms (relocation, dislocation, abandonment of villages, and mass migration). Land use and human migration provide us with a unique vantage point to study strongly asymmetrical dependencies on the scale of the village and over la longue durée. A joint archaeological-textual study of two villages in Palestine and Transjordan offer us a regionally comparative context. 

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Fabrizio Filioli Uranio: Embodied Dependencies and Valencian Slavery in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Abstract: The aim of this article is to investigate slavery in the Kingdom of Valencia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As we will see, slavery can be analysed in a perspective of both global history and micro-history, that is, the way the Valencian institutions played a precise role in the social control of slavery and in determining the price of slaves. Looking at some personal trajectories of these slaves will allow us to get closer to the Valencian reality of the Early Modern Period, showing us how the very concept of identification of these subjects, by means of brands and tattoos, was particularly important for local institutions precisely to recognize the slaves and possibly runaway slaves. In fact, one of the major concerns of the Valencian authorities was to avoid vagrancy phenomena, which could lead to petty criminal activities. Finally, those institutional mechanisms will also be highlighted by means of which slaves, without running away, could legally reach the much-desired freedom.

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Paulo Cruz Terra: Anti-Vagrancy, Punishment and Labor Relations in the Context of the Abolition of Slavery in Brazil and the Portuguese Empire (1870–1910)

Abstract: Focusing on the Brazilian and Portuguese Empire contexts, between 1870 and 1910, this text aims to investigate how the slavery abolition process affected the different historical definitions of what constituted vagrancy and how those definitions related to categories such as class, race and gender; and the way punishments for vagrancy changed over time and how those changes were linked to the transformations associated to the new workers’ labor and production relations. This article first explores the effect that the abolition discussions had on the definitions of vagrancy, and what the previous definitions had been. It goes on to show how, in the post abolition period, the concept of vagrancy was expanded to criminalize workers’ practices and behaviors. An important innovation and contribution of this article is that it is the first comparative and connected analysis of the transformations in labor relations in the abolition context in those spaces with the persecution of vagrancy as its central focus.

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