Zachary Berman

  • Fellowship Dates 2009-2010
  • Research Topic Zubayr Pasha and Slaving in 19th-Century Sudan
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate City University of New York Graduate Center

This research explores the relationship between slavery and imperialism as two, sometimes similar, forms of domination as examined through the story of Zubayr Pasha. The years of Zubayr’s life, 1830-1913, saw dramatic changes in the development of Sudan, the slave trade and the Middle East. It explores the nature of slavery in Sudan from this important new perspective, as well as its connections to imperialism and the Mahdist revolt. The story of Zubayr critically contributes to discussions of the British imperial experiment in Sudan and Egypt and the rise of the Mahdist revolt. The British used abolition as an excuse to dominate Egypt and Sudan, while at the same time encouraged slavery by demanding increased taxes from the Sudanese. As British control of Sudan grew, Britain encouraged slavery indirectly as a method of increasing tax revenue from Sudan, and at the same time worked for abolition as justification for British imperial force in Sudan. In the early 1880s, a religious movement gained wide popular support among the Sudanese people under the leadership of Mohammed Ahmed, who claimed to be the Mahdi and battled to remove all foreign forces from Sudan. This research provides a nuanced approach  to the period from the Sudanese perspective: the imperialism which worked to abolish slavery was hypocritical, since imperialism encouraged and fought slavery at the same time. Additionally, it moves beyond initial comparisons to trans-Atlantic slavery and beyond comparisons of the main types of Middle Eastern slavery and the stories of those involved - slaves, abolitionists and politicians. This project considers the experiences of a slave trader, a position that has been long-overlooked.