The Husyanid Dynasty and Spatial Control and Judicial Control of the Enslaved Blacks of Tunis


The Husyanid Dynasty and Spatial Control and Judicial Control of the Enslaved Blacks of Tunis

In this podcast, Dr. Ismael Montana, Associate Professor of History at Northern Illinois University, discusses the impact of the Husaynid dynasty (1705-1957) on the enslaved Sudanic communities of Tunis. Montana does so by looking at the Stambali, a ritual of musical possession based on the fusion of the Hausa Bori cult and popular Islam, performed primarily by the Sudanic communities of Tunis. 

He argues that the Husaynid dynasty actively sought to transform Sudanic communities into on of several corporatist communities in the Tunisian Beylic, by means of spatial control. In the early eighteenth century, the Husaynid Beys promoted the sainthood of Sidi Saad al-Abid, a former slave from Borno, in order to serve as a rallying figure for the freed and enslaved Sudanic communities that had been settled in Tunis as a result of the trans-Saharan slave trade. The Sufi brotherhood that formed around this saint was given a judicial-administrative apparatus, designed to self-regulate the community, and structure it within the state's religio-political scheme. Montana maintains that while the Sudani community entered the Husaynid political system via the Stambali, the processes by which that group was integrated relied on its specific religious culture, which continued to set them apart from the rest of Tunisian society.

Ismael Montana's research interests include the social and economic history of slavery, culture, and citizenship in Northwest Africa and the western Mediterranean basin from the 18th century to the present.  He is currently the Vice-President of West Africa Research Association (WARA). 

This podcast was recorded at the CEMAT Director’s Conference on “Narratives of Legitimacy and the Maghrebi State: Power, Law and Comparison” held on 21 June 2019 in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia. 

Download the Podcast:  Feed iTunes / Podbean

We thank Dr. Tamara Turner, Ethnomusicologist and Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for the History of Emotions, for her interpretation of Natiro/ Ya Joro, from the Hausa repertoire of diwan.

Edited and posted by Hayet Lansari, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA).

Suggested Readings

Montana, Ismael M. 2012. “The Stambali of Husaynid Tunis: From Possession Cult to Ethno-Religious and National Culture.” In African Communities in Asia and the Mediterranean: Identities Between Integration and Conflict. Ehud R. Toledano, Ed. New Jersey: Africa World Press. 

Abun-Nasr, Jamil M. 1982. "The Tunisian State in the Eighteenth Century." Revue de l'Occident Musulman et de la Méditerranée. 33(1): 33-66.

Brown, Leon Carl. 1984. “Color in Northern Africa.” Daedalus. 96(2): 464-482.

Chérif, Mohamed-Hedi. 1984. Pouvoir et société dans la Tunisie de Husayn bin Ali: 1705-1740, Tunis: Université de Tunis.

Chérif, Mohamed-Hedi. 1981."La Déturquisation de pourvoir en Tunisie: Classes dirigeantes et société Tunisienne de la fin du XVIe siècle à 1881." Les Cahiers de Tunisie. Vol. 117-118: 177-197.

Chérif, Mohamed-Hedi. 1985. "Pouvoir beylical et contrôle de l'espace dans la Tunisie du XVIII siècle et les débuts du xix siècle." Annuaire de l'Afrique du Nord (1983): 49-61.

Kraeim, Mustapha. 1973. La Tunisie pré-coloniale II: État, gouvernement, administration, Tunis: Société Tunisienne de diffusion.