Author: Dabovic, Safet
Date published: January 1, 2012
The story of African Muslims remains an often-neglected aspect of American cultural history of the nineteenth century. One reason has been that scholars have not considered Islamic contributions as sufficient to merit study. For instance, Caesar E. Farah believes that "what Muslim faith they [the African slaves] brought with them was quickly absorbed into their new Christian milieu and disappeared."1 Critical works by Philip Curtin, Allan D. Austin, Sylviane Diouf, and Michael Gomez problematize the contention that Islamic identity simply vanished and show that Muslims produced innovative slave narratives that made fascinating contributions to the formation of black cultural identity in the United States and throughout Latin America. In many ways, these Muslim slaves not only engaged the stratified Western racial discursive terrain but also managed to partially shape the Western representation of West Africa. This essay focuses on an African Muslim named Nicholas Said, who was a former slave and world traveler, and argues that he sought to inscribe the dynamics and struggles of displacement in the United States.
Written after the abolishment of slavery in the United States, The Autobiography of Nicholas Said (1873) complicates the contemporary historical and cultural scholarship on the period.2 His narrative presents an Islamic identity steeped in the traditions and achievements of his native people and then describes the ordeal of slavery in the Orient. After gaining his freedom, Said travels throughout Europe and to various ports of the black Atlantic to work as a servant, an educator, and a reformer. He combines Western themes from exploration literature and various autobiographical genres to intervene strategically into discourses of education, religion, philanthropy, and history. Throughout the narrative, he constructs a shifting and itinerant subjectivity, negotiating relationships to various institutions, persons, and locations. As will be shown, a desire to travel continues to remove Said from the familiar confines of the urn' ma (Islamic community) and situates him in an emotional, physical, and social position within the Western world that makes him feel out of place. Interestingly, these transnational trajectories enable Said to see himself as a citizen of the world who can advocate a message of social activism. Ultimately, this essay suggests that The Autobiography of Nicholas Said requires readers to consider questions of process, mobility, and performance in order to show that African Muslims managed to inscribe interesting and often inventive responses to the historical condition of displacement and alienation.
Muslims, Transnational Flows, and Displacement
During the nineteenth century, African Muslims came to the United States for various reasons.3 Allan D. Austin claims that about 10 percent of West African slaves sent to North America between 1711 and 1808 were Muslims. Following the ban on the importation of slaves in 1808, approximately 29,695 African Muslims were smuggled into the United States.4 Michael Gomez postulates that out of the 481,000 African slaves who came to North America from West Africa, 230,000 slaves came from regions populated by Muslims. However, these figures are based on reasonable conjecture, and Gomez reminds us that "It is therefore reasonable to conclude that Muslims may have come to America by the thousands, if not tens of thousands. A more precise assessment is difficult to achieve."5 Clearly, African Muslims reached these shores and attempted to account for their sense of dislocation and anxiety. Responding to the contingencies of displacement and alienation, these African Muslims, who were already literate in Arabic, produced forms of slave narratives in order to document their dislocation and leave behind a physical marker of their faith. Some African Muslim writers wrote assemblage-like narratives in Arabic that hybridized Qur'anic passages with personal testimonies of struggle; others simply discussed matters of ethnology with their eager and sometimes naive amanuenses. Although Said's narrative, written in English, stands slightly outside this tradition of African Muslim writing, being the longest in length and a hybridization of an African narrative of enslavement and a conventional Western travel narrative, we can link these slave narratives by their shared focus on negotiating the problems of belonging and selfrepresentation. As will be shown, Said writes about a partial assimilation with the dominant host cultures he encounters and then documents the various "becomings" that he experiences in order to assert an African Muslim presence that affects some of the Western discourses that he enters.
Said's story, like many African Muslim narratives of slavery, starts in West Africa. Born Mohammed Ali ben Said in Bornu around 1836, he is one of thirteen children who live a privileged life as members of the aristocracy.6 His father is Barca Garna, the famed general who served under Muhammad al- Amin al-Kanemi during 1810-37, the renowned leader who repelled the Fulani jihads launched by Don Fodio and rose to power to rule Bornu. After the death of his father, Said attends school in Lary around 1849, where he learns to read and write in Arabic; however, Tuareg slavers kidnap him and then sell him to an Arabic slave trader, who takes him across the Sahara to Tripoli. Interestingly, when given the chance to be ransomed home, Said chooses to remain in North Africa. Afterward, Said lives as an ornament in North Africa, traveling to various cities, including accompanying his master on the hajj to Mecca. Said continues to change owners and eventually accesses the top levels of the Ottoman government, witnessing the delicate negotiations between Russia and the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the Crimean War. A Russian prince purchases Said and takes him to Russia to serve as an emancipated personal valet. During his stay in Russia, Said changes employment to another prince and is forced to convert to Christianity, adopting the name "Nicholas" sometime in 1854.7 Said then tours the Russian Empire and Europe, learning various languages and Western customs as a privileged valet de chambre. Around 1859, he leaves the Russian prince and then travels throughout the Caribbean with an American couple. In 1862, Said reaches the United States and lives as an itinerant until he enlists with the Massachusetts 55th Infantry Regiment in the Union Army in 1863; he serves in the regiment until the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Following the war, he travels to the American South to lecture about his experiences and to advocate social change. The narrative ends during the Reconstruction period with a description of how he obtains the status of "traveler" and shows that an African Muslim can foster a desire for change and activism in the American South.
In the preface of the narrative, Said incorporates various genres, such as the slave narrative and the Western travel narrative, in order to enter diverse and complicated discursive terrains. When discussing Said's narrative, Tabish Khair reminds us that "the term 'slave narrative' is a justified but limiting designation."8 In terms of generic convention, the narrative shares much with the West African captivity narratives that Pier M. Larson calls "narratives of enslavement," which "consist of histories of capture, movement, and servitude within sub-Saharan Africa, whatever the subsequent destination of the captive."9 This genre of writing depicts the wanderings of a West African subject who experiences the trauma of separation and then develops a longing for home as he endures the horrors of slavery. Due to its adaptive nature, the narrative moves away from the toils of African slavery following the crossing of the Sahara, which Said describes as "this horrid journeying," and appropriates language fitting of a Western travel narrative, a genre that Said would have become acquainted with during his own travels in Europe.10 According to Malini Johar Schueller, one common element that connected Western travel writers was a desire to perform a "ritual of cultural affirmation and affiliation."11 Relying upon the work by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, Schueller argues that the "acquisition of European cultural capital and the writing about enchantment with this culture was thus preeminently a class privilege marking aristocratic heredity and taste and moral and civic virtue, rather than economic means alone."12 Christopher Mulvey notes that tone was a critical foundation of this tradition because writers had to maintain an aura that "suggested very often they were of higher social standing than that to which their actual social incomes or birth might otherwise entitle them."13 Although the acquisition of cultural capital was a white male privilege, Said hybridizes these conventions as a form of social power and writes about the "egotism" and "a sense of pride" in his accomplishments as a traveler, which he claims are "entirely due to my own efforts, under the guidance ofthat Providence which has shaped my fortune."14 This ability to merge genres demonstrates that Said can enter textual and discursive spaces that black travelers had been restricted from and destabilize the signifiers attached to the "traveler" in order to show that other groups can manage to obtain a sense of power from transnational travel.15
An important ramification of this acquisition of cultural capital is that Said hybridizes various cultural traditions and comes to imagine himself as a world citizen. Early in the preface, Said presents himself as a polyglot who no longer possesses a fixed linguistic site from which to territorialize. Through such a discursive maneuver, Said constructs a sense of self-empowerment within the third spaces between cultures and nations. Historically, other West African figures have managed such feats. For instance, Heinrich Barth writes about a Hausa whom he meets in Kano in 1851. The Hausa greets Barth in Greek and explains that he had lived in Istanbul for twenty years as a slave, having learned the language and customs of the minority underclass. Said's example is even more dramatic because he manages to embody a vast territory of transition and transformation.16 While apologizing for the grammatical errors that appear in his work, he claims that "pure English can hardly be expected from one who has to choose his words and phrases from a mass of Kanouri, (my vernacular), Mandra, Arabic, Turkish, Russian, German, Italian and French, and all of them encumbered with the provincialisms necessarily."17 Such a field of languages reveals the complicated transnational trajectories upon which he traveled, making the narrative not only about becomings but also about the effects of crossing transnational thresholds. Much like the Hausa who maintained the Greek customs in Kano, Said comes across as a man at home in the world, not simply in one nation.
Although this sense of transculturalization offers Said the ability to hybridize elements of various cultures in order to construct his identity, it also reveals the complicated negotiations of transnational displacement that affect his travels throughout four continents. In short, the concept of a diaspora connotes a sense of community found abroad with its ties to some ancestral ontological point of origin; meanwhile, the notion of displacement evokes the sense of uncertainty of cultural, religious, and ethnic dislocation within the existing power structure, often between dominant and marginal powers. As Wanni W. Anderson and Robert G. Lee explain further, "talking about diaspora or transnationalism without placing them in broader context of displacement is to diminish the weight of exile, the notion of home, or conversely the act of recreating the new home place and thence the construction of new identities and community within the nation-state in which the group has resettled."18 Said's preface shows a life out of place in the middle ground between the possibilities of the diasporic condition and the historical realities of displacement. At one point, he writes, "Owing to my uncertainty regarding the exact period of my birth, and the natural carelessness concerning the flight of time incident to youth, I have been unable to define with distinctness the different phases of my early life, and to mark their respective limits of duration. Consequently there is, unavoidably, a certain degree of vagueness connected with the first part of my history."19 He is a figure marked by the experience of multiple discontinuities and struggles with the necessity of self-invention. In addition, the problem of his conversion plays a role in the way he constructs his identity. Although forced to convert to Christianity in Russia, Said appears to maintain the customs and perspective of a Muslim throughout the narrative, a problem made more interesting in that he later considers himself a Swedenbourgian. In many ways, he reveals that the ongoing negotiations of his life of travel cause a sense of disjointedness and alienation. He finds that new routes inevitably take him further from his origins; each new path sets him into the third spaces in Western civilization, where he must wade through the various discursive terrains and use a series of inventive adaptations in order to foster a sense of identity. Nonetheless, from this social position he can inscribe the dynamics of "travel" discourse and self-authorship that challenge the traditional boundaries of "self and racial "other" located in slave narratives and travel narratives and subsequently engage in, to borrow a concept from Angelica Bammer, the process of recording loss and inscribing presence.20
Interestingly, this sense of displacement strengthens his voice as a social critic. We are reminded of Homi Bhabha's claim that "It is from those who have suffered the sentence of history - subjugation, domination, diaspora, displacement - that we learn our most enduring lessons."21 African Muslim slave narratives have typically offered a comparative history that challenges the assumptions of Western representation and morality. For instance, in "Condition and Character of Negroes of Africa," Lamena Kebe urges his amanuensis Theodore Dwight Jr. to "write down what I tell you exactly as I say it" and to "be careful to distinguish between what I have seen and what I have only heard other people say of."22 Kebe recognizes that African subjectivity contended with popular images that lay somewhere between reason and imagination in the Western mind. As a knowledgeable informant, he claims that many Westerners "may have made some mistakes" about Africa and implores Dwight to "put down exactly what I say, by and by, when good men go to Africa, they will say; Paul told the truth."23 The narrative apparently opens an insight that Westerners should not impose their own conditions of study but instead should strive to communicate an accurate message that considers perspectives from alternative sources. Said follows in Kebe's footsteps and chooses to intervene in the Western representations of African groups. Early in the preface, Said claims a "desire to show the world the possibilities that may be accomplished by the African, and the hope that my humble example may stimulate some at least of my people to systematic efforts in the direction of mental culture and improvement."24 Accordingly, he burdens himself with a compelling mandate to accomplish ''some good by its means"25 and to assist in the moral and intellectual uplift of African Americans. Consequently, his desire to help reconnect African Americans to the transnational pathways that slavery denied them is only possible because of the life lessons that he learned through his travels and negotiations with his own sense of displacement.
Although Said's travelogue did not resonate with the buying public, having disappeared for close to a century until being discovered by Precious Rasheeda Muhammad, it requires the modern reader to ask new questions about the role that African Muslims played in forming American perceptions of travel. The following sections argue that the narrative is not about museums and traveling on established white circuits; instead, the narrative documents the movement of an African Muslim traveler who transforms from a slave into an activist scholar. First, he provides a sense of precaptive placement to wrest control from Western historians and then accounts for the sense of movement, dislocation, and displacement that slaves experienced. The subsequent formation of a diasporic consciousness is fraught with the negotiation of multiple sites of belonging. In many ways, feelings of homelessness and displacement, along with the fragmentation of identity and memory, plague Said throughout the narrative. A chronicle of the transitions between civilizations to the United States reveals how he challenges the authoritative Western ideologies of oppression and eventually earns the title of "traveler." Interestingly, transnational shifts in the narrative help Said resist settled and coded modes of thought and territory in the West; in many ways, these moves situate Said into new social spaces and territories. What results is that Said continually negotiates the shifting boundaries that mark his sense of belonging and displacement. This process will help the modern reader understand that African Muslims attempted to open new conceptual spaces for thinking about black transnationality in the Americas.
Historical Interventions and Negotiations of Displacement
In the first half of the narrative, we see that cultural identities have histories that go through constant transformations. Stuart Hall writes that "Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialized past, they are subject to the continuous 'play' of history, culture and power."26 In this regard, Said positions himself within the narratives of West Africa's past, which provide a springboard for his own subsequent becomings and transformations. During the nineteenth century, the history of West Africa was a partially filled page mostly written by Westerners.27 Said wrests some control from Western historians and writes a counternarrative about African accomplishment. For instance, the manner in which Said documents the reign of Muhammad al-Kanemi is an impressive assertion of agency.28 Said regards al-Kanemi's time in power as a golden age and reminds his readers of the potential of Africa, which "has been, through prejudice and ignorance, so sadly misrepresented, that anything like intelligence, industry, etc., is believed not to exist among its natives."29 Nonetheless, the passing of his father, who was an important general in the army, and the subsequent reign of al-Kanem's son Umar I ibn Muhammad al- Amin (r. 1837-81), whose time in power signaled the decline of the mais of the long-lived Sayfawa dynasty, symbolizes a deterioration of the region's fortunes. In addition, Said writes that the most destructive agents in the region are the Fulanis, with their form of Islamic fanaticism. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Fulanis fought to expand the boundaries of the Sokoto Empire and bring their form of radical Sunnism to neighboring kingdoms. In attacking the Fulani jihads, Said also challenges the basis of the Hamitic hypothesis that Western ethnologists and historians used to privilege the ethnic group.30 According to Pekka Masonen, Westerners believed that "the seeds of civilization had been planted by representatives of the more advanced white civilizations from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and cultural progression was developed by the fairskinned 'Hamitic' peoples."31 Although Western ethnologists and historians throughout the nineteenth century considered the Fulanis to be an exemplary group, Said chooses instead to document the "desolation and ruin" caused by their incursions.32 Consequently, he depicts a world that is under constant attack by agents interested in disrupting the achievements of black peoples and maintaining the slave trade.
Details of his capture and enslavement serve to embody the sense of interrupted potential that strikes the region. Following his father's death, Said is sent to Malam Katory, who was a respected teacher noted for his command of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian; however, Tuareg slavers enter the region of Lary where the school is located and capture about forty children. Robert O. Collins explains that the major West African empires "had to cope with the perennial and piratical razzias, raids, by the Tuareg of the Sahara from the beginning of the trans-Saharan trade to the present day."33 The Tuaregs used these raids to support their local nomadic economy and supply the Ottoman Empire with black slaves.34 A sordid tale of enslavement, resistance, corruption, and abandonment defines the journey to the oasis of Katchna, which is modern-day Katsina in Hausaland, northern Nigeria. Each mile marks a linguistic and territorial site of disruption that shows that blacks faced what Larson considers the "varying idioms of violence," which often included expressions of "broken kinship, distance traveled, exchanges from one owner to the next, new dialects and languages spoken, political and cultural borders crossed, confusing unfamiliarity of surroundings, and fading degrees of hope."35 Even so, slaves managed some form of resistance. After being purchased by El-Kader, Said endures the horrors of the Blima Route to North Africa and feels compelled to reveal his genealogy.36 This revelation transforms his status from a slave without the chance of redemption to a hostage for ransom. The story of transformation is not complete without one major detail that Said offers: "I was . . . unwilling to recross the inhospitable Sahara, but begged him to sell me to the Turks, who I had heard, were very good masters."37 Soon after, thanks to a kind new owner, Said enters privileged quarters among the Turks. Accordingly, we read here how West Africans had to resite the boundaries of their worlds, hybridize the prevailing hegemonic discourses, and ultimately adapt to life within a new territory.
Interestingly, Said does not simply write a history of the African Muslim communities scattered throughout the empire but also shifts what Schueller calls the "genealogy of Oriental representation" to address questions of racial ethnology and religious tolerance within Turkish culture to contest the moral superiority of the West. As Schueller writes, "Africans always entered the Oriental landscape questioning the rhetoric of freedom and liberty and drawing attention to the racial discourses that comprised ideas of empire and of colonization within the country."38 Said establishes that since he does not live an encumbered life, he is free to access Tripoli and subsequently becomes "conversant with the manners and costumes of its inhabitants."39 Although a form of Arabic and Turkish ethnocentrism had developed during the centuries after the Arabic conquest of Africa that castigated black Africans into a menial social status, a sense of racial tolerance was present that not only fostered belonging within the community but also contrasted significantly from the Western form of the social practice. Said points out that he does not experience any hostility or racial discrimination.40 He claims that his owner, Hadji Daoud, "treated me with extreme kindness, and, in this connection, I feel constrained to say, that of all the nationalities of people I have seen in my life, I like the Turks the best. . . . The chief desire of my life, next to a visit to my home, is the desire I entertain of living among the Osmanlis again."41 Such commentary plays with a sense of irony to admonish the institutionalized system of racism that affected the American South at the time of the narrative's publication. A discussion of the black contingent of Turkish troops only reinforces this notion, as Said suggests that "there seems to have been no prejudice among the Turks on account of complexion, their only prejudice being of a religious character."42 Not only does Said present alternative sites of tolerance for blacks, but he also chooses to identify with what had been a "decaying" power instead of the United States.43
Of course, this sense of belonging does not mitigate the complicated notion of constructing cultural identity, not with the ramifications of cultural displacement present, as nostalgia and the remembrance for home are never far away. The modern reader will have a difficult time reading Said's descriptions of living with the Ottoman elites without thinking about how black communities failed to establish any long-lasting roots in the region. Michael Gomez writes that "362,000 Africans were imported into the region during the 19th century alone."44 However, most likely due to the Turkish use of eunuchs and the high ratio of females to males, black communities did not sustain themselves except in certain areas of Abkhazia and Georgia. In many ways, the narrative is very informative in showing that black Africans sought the company of each other and had difficulty maintaining these connections. This sense of temporality is a reminder that the narrative portrays a form of slavery in the Ottoman Empire different from its American counterpart.45 Two important early episodes drive this point. Said tells a story about discovering former friends from Bornu who are imprisoned in the Tripoli slave market. The pasha of Tripoli, "having learned that they were from the best families in Bornou, purchased the whole lot and held them for ransom."46 The Bornu slaves gain their freedom and quickly enter the general population as guests of the pasha until their return to Bornu could be arranged. Meanwhile, Said reconsiders his status as a slave and then decides that he wants to cross the desert with his friends under the protection of the pasha. Larson reminds us that "Aspirations of return to kin and home ran especially deep among captives in Africa," who "never lost hope of effecting their escape."47 Unfortunately, Said's owner refuses to manumit him, reminding us of the problems that blacks faced in maintaining ties with their own ethnic groups. Later in the narrative when Said describes befriending Kislar-Aga, the chief of the black eunuchs and who was also a native of Mandra and a friend of Said's family, we see that diasporic blacks still managed to overcome adversity and maintain ties. However, friendship with Kislar only amplifies his own sense of nostalgia for home, as Said laments being passed "from hand to hand, with never a sure and definite resting place." Memories of home are never far away in the narrative, with Said turning his "longing eyes to the southward, in the direction of beloved Kouka," and sighing "for that rest which I could not find."48 In this regard, Said reminds us that feelings of temporality define his social position inside Ottoman society. As he passes from master to master, he shows that instead of the stasis seen in American slavery, slavery in the Orient is often a fluid concept that makes the formation of fixed communities of slaves impossible.
The first half of the narrative complicates our understanding of the West African diaspora. Said constructs a persona wrestling with the legacy of West Africa history that, according to Precious Resheeda Muhammad, challenges "ethnologies, slavery, indentured servitude, and religious and political systems all around him."49 The shift from West Africa to North Africa should be read as a move toward a transitionary lifestyle fraught with the negotiation of violence, displacement, and nostalgia for home. Movement across civilizations also means the development of a critical voice. By providing a comparative analysis of slavery in the Orient, Said exposes the apparent hypocrisies of the American system and intervenes in the construction of Western modes of representation. In the following section, Said enters Western discourses and manipulates the traditional power conditions between dominant and marginal subject positions as cosmopolitan routes transform into transnational routes of opportunity and self-invention. A hybrid and transgressive identity develops out of the transnational circuits upon which he travels. In this regard, the narrative claims the travel narrative from Westerners, reconfigures the way Europeans adopted the name "traveler," and stimulates thinking for modern-day readers about the adaptive nature of African Muslim perspectives.
Becoming a World Traveler
A milieu of international travel, cross-connections, and disjuntures appear in the last half of the narrative that sheds light on the construction of the black Muslim mobile subject. Again, we should recognize that Muslims undertook these journeys and desired to account for their movement and experiences.50 As Mahir Saul writes, "the high propensity of Muslims, throughout centuries, to move to distant lands in numbers that are startling from the perspective of premodern Europe is a standard observation in the specialist literature."51 Accounts of travel throughout the Orient show a slave subjected to the twists and turns of historical flow that eventually lead him out of the traditional Orient into new social spaces. Following the return from the hajj to a burned-down Turkish sector in Tripoli, Said's master sends him to Smyrna as a bounded slave for auction. Fuad Pacha buys Said to serve as a tchiboudji ("pipe cleaner") and a personal valet at the Imperial Palace in Istanbul. After describing the scenic trip across the Mediterranean and through the Dardanelles, Said gives readers wonderful descriptions of the city's wonders and offers comments on cultural life and the various liberties he enjoys; clearly, he continues to develop a cosmopolitan outlook about life as he matures into adulthood. Transnational pathways allow him to develop new perspectives and conceptions of selfhood and open unexpected paths when he gains access to the exclusive quarters of the Turkish ruling class. A new owner, Reschid Pacha (Pasha), who had been the Ottoman ambassador to Paris and London and was at that point the minister for foreign affairs, exposes Said to the international world of diplomacy.52 A Russian prince purchases Said from Reschid in a clandestine exchange meant as a gesture of goodwill to help avert the Crimean War.53 Although selling slaves to non-Muslims was prohibited under by Islamic law and custom, Reschid did not seem bothered by such issues, which becomes a stark reminder of the precarious nature of Said's position within Turkish culture. Said then must cross the borders between Christian and Islamic civilizations and adapt to new contingencies that force him to create himself as a type of Western hybridized subject. As the remainder of this section shows, this break from his Islamic culture not only encourages his subsequent accumulation of Western cultural capital but also helps usher his awakening as an activist and citizen of the world.54
Moving across the Black Sea, Said faces the challenge of transformation from slavery to freedom in a new society. Albert Parry writes that blacks saw Russia as a place that "offered them a chance to gain a good and prosperous life that was singularly devoid of discrimination and humiliation because of their color."55 The prince emancipates Said following a brief stay in Odessa and subsequent relocation to St. Petersburg. Said explains that "having never been 'attached' to Russian soil, I could not be a serf under the Tree' laws of that empire; and his excellency had notified me, on my arrival at the capital, that I was free, and at liberty to go whither-soever I chose."56 Instead of leaving the country, Said chooses to remain part of the domestic service, obtaining a status that Parry would consider "rare and exotic, yet useful and ornamental."57 As shown by a chance encounter with the Russian czar, Said continues to wear his Turkish costume and to practice the faith, indicative of this ornamental status. After changing employers, Said joins the service of Prince Nicholas Troubetzkoy. In 1854, Said bears the violence of religious conversation and leaves his "Mohammedan name of Mohammed Ali Ben Said" to adopt the "Christian name of Nicholas."58 Prince Troubetzkoy presents Said with a "solid gold cross, and a chain of the same metal to suspend it around my neck by"; he wears the cross "in the prevailing Russian fashion" and seemingly performs the normative practices of Russian culture.59 This episode marks a crucial moment of transformation that signals a partial Christian molding of his diasporic consciousness. Like Olaudah Equiano a century earlier, Said contends with the problem of having an African and Western identity, which requires him to challenge conceptual boundaries and the complicated terrain between assimilation and difference.
Nevertheless, the conversion must be considered nominal, an adaptive response to the pressures of living in the West. If we examine features of the African Muslim slave narrative, presented in a collection of eight works collected by Allan D. Austin in the critical African Muslims in Antebellum America: Sourcebook^ (1984), we find that African Muslims frequently feigned a conversion to Christianity to gain privilege while still maintaining their native beliefs. For instance, after transcribing Ibrahima Abd ar-Rahman Sori's slave narrative, editor Cyrus Griffin admitted that the "Prince [ar-Rahman] was educated and perhaps is still, nominally at least, a Mohamedan."60 Scholars have read the Afro-Arabic slave narrative by Omar ibn Said as a conversion narrative; however, a recent translation by Ala Alryyes suggests that this impressive Arabic slave narrative shows that Omar still maintained his Islamic faith.61 The narrative by Lamena Kebe evokes a subtle form of Islamic "doubling" - something akin to Bhabha's sly civility - that reveals that he continued to profess his faith as well. In her reading of Said's narrative, which corroborates Austin's findings, Precious Resheeda Muhammad suggests that Said maintains an Islamic persona despite identifying himself at one point as a Swedenbourgian, a conversion that does not appear in the text.62 Said seems to appropriate Christianity as a form of earned cultural capital, which allows him to penetrate new territories and to re-create his identity at an important midpoint between Islamic and Western cultures. For instance, while traveling Europe with the prince, Said hears about the fall of Sebastopol to the Allies: "I could hardly repress my exultation, for my sympathies were with the Osmanlis."63 Although "Nicholas" will become the name that allows him to access Western circuits and the one that he chooses to identify with for the remainder of his life, Said does not identify with Russian national identity, marking a partial presence that resides in the territory between imitation and charade.
Being a member of the prince's entourage requires occupying a complicated social position fraught with privilege and displacement. The entourage performs first a tour of the Russian Empire and then of Europe, which offers Said many new experiences and the ability to garner new perspectives; however, he must view them from a sometimes isolated social position dependent upon the prince, claiming that the prince "had never allowed me to associate with the rest of his domestics."64 At one point Said decides to associate with the footmen of Lady Waldegrave, whom the prince had chosen to visit in England, and is admonished by the lady that such intermingling is not to be encouraged.65 Despite this sense of social isolation, we cannot ignore that Said enters a privileged world inhabited by European travelers who journey from one aristocratic home to the next because "it was unaristocratic to live at the hotels."66 Being a privileged valet opens many opportunities to become a student of European culture, language, and history. Subsequently, Said occupies a privileged status and an exotic social space that disengages him from normative subject positions, from where he can consider himself "quite a superior being."67 In many ways, the adoption and acquisition of this cultural capital signifies an "Anglo privilege" that allows him to foster a sense of his self-growth and awareness of the world. During the course of his travels, Said discovers a source of power in this tradition that enables him to hone his intellectual capacities and eventually develop his own sense of political awareness in the West. Later comments on Roman squalor and oppression signal Said's awakening as a subject engaged in the practical concerns of the suppressing of tyrannies and usher his transformation into an advocate for the oppressed. Interestingly, this impulse for activism fosters his desire to return to West Africa in order to help his people.
Although in Europe Said experiences freedoms that other blacks of the period did not have in the United States, four years of travel, which span 1855-59, have left a deep mark on him, and he wishes to control his own life. When Said announces his desire to return to Africa, the prince "ridicules" him, stating that he was "no longer an African but a citizen of Europe . . . who could not reconcile ... to the manners and customs of [Bornu]."68 However, Said decides to assert himself: "All this, however, did not deter me from returning to Soudan."69 How fitting that a man caught in the negotiations between home and mobility should retire to a halfway house on the West India Dock: "this kind and best of men [the prince] left London for Geneva via Paris, and I removed quarters to the 'Strangers' Home, for Asiatics, Africans, and South Sea Islanders.'"70 This type of home is at the opposite end of the luxurious homes that Said used to visit, a place without the tradition of the hotel where histories, travelers, and privilege reaffirm the customs of European culture. Instead, the transient home serves as a refuge for diasporic travelers in transition. Accordingly, the Strangers' Home appears to be a site that prefigures the postmodern space where multiple histories, cultures, and identities intermix and then disperse. The home is also the place that disrupts idealistic notions of "returns." Before disembarking to Africa, Said meets De Sanddrost I. J. Rochussen of Dutch Guiana and his new wife and agrees to travel to America as a servant: "my fondness for travel asserted its supremacy, [and] I concluded to go with him."71 Although a traveler might harbor a desire for a permanent home, he or she will also pursue new routes of opportunity and not want to retrace old routes. In many ways, Said demonstrates that while the yearning to return home is always on his mind, that desire cannot be fulfilled because he also fosters a desire to expand his boundaries and to learn as much as possible about the world. Subsequently, he brings an inventive African presence molded by his experiences throughout the Orient and Europe and initiates a complicated positioning between transnational and national diasporas within the boundaries of what modern scholars consider the black Atlantic.72
Being a traveler in the Caribbean region requires Said to not only negotiate the complex crosscurrents of diverse black populations but also analyze the ramifications of the historical legacy of diaspora. A modern reader would be tempted to read the black Caribbean community in Said's narrative as, to quote Carla L. Pedersen, the "model of cultural self-determination and re-creation of local place for blacks in the New World."73 Initially, Nassau is a source of inspiration for Said: "here I was perfectly beside myself with joy, on finding a great many liberated Africans, but all of them came from the coast of Guinea, Mandigoes, Nangoes, Kissi, Dahomey, Amatifous, and Kromantis."74 For Said, Haiti signifies a site from where he connects to the dignity of black struggle and black heroism; he was "delighted at finding myself in the country where the heroes of the 'Haytien Independence' contended with the armies of Napoleon the Great."75 Nonetheless, travel across the black Atlantic for Said is not an integrative concept that reveals a new capacity for transnational interrelation. Instead, encounters with black communities in the African diaspora are fraught with a sense of dislocation and the multifaceted politics of the local. The village of Adelaide, which had been founded in 1830 to house retired British black sailors and train them in the "usages and modes of the civilized world," is a fitting symbol of a life of wandering and dislocation, as "this place is now perfectly deserted, and nothing can be seen but the ruins of huts built in the African style."76 Haiti shows a different set of problems, and Said discovers that "the prejudice of color in the West Indies between the negro and the hybrid mulatto is much greater than exists in the United States."77 Accordingly, Said does not inscribe a sense of optimism about the island's future and laments that the aristocracy and mulatto classes do not assist in the education of the black lower class. Under such circumstances, the black community is heading in the wrong direction and teetering on the path for failure: "I would prefer that Hayti were one of the English or French colonies rather than in its present condition."78 The local contingencies of class, racism, and internal conflicts that appear in the narrative encourage the modern reader to recognize the history of violence and the pressures of modernity within diaspora discourses. Said presents a supplementary discourse that frames the construction of a skeptical persona who does not view the transcendent power of the imagined black diasporic unity as a viable expression of black self-empowerment. Consequently, the experience of witnessing Haiti's apparent self-destruction only solidifies Said's belief of the necessity of educating the black population in order to check the power of tyrannies that relied on racist regimes of power.
Entry into North America in 1862 means experiencing a form of deterritorialization that is framed by the shedding of genealogical roots and the subsequent development of a new transmigrant persona who becomes involved in the social causes of African Americans. When Said discovers that Rochussen and his wife have fled Canada without paying the hotel bill - and without paying back the money that they had borrowed from him - he is cast out without the clothing that symbolizes the transnational circuits that he crossed: "four Turkish costumes, three full suits, of broadcloth, a dozen of linen and fine English flannel shirts, etc. etc., worth more than two hundred and fifty dollars."79 The clothing represents an extension of his life, an ongoing metaphor of home and symbol of his diaspora. This episode not only marks a critical crossing for an African Muslim who was transformed by the journey but also shows that transient pathways lead subjects further away from their ontological origins. Being left destitute forces him to travel from city to city and to transgress social barriers. While in Aylmer, he becomes acquainted with Rev. D. T. Johnston, who "was a pastor of that parish." Johnston loans Said some money and recommends that he to go to "Detroit, Michigan, or Buffalo, New York, where there were a great number of colored people."80 This symbolic reconnection enables him to establish relations with the African community within a new locality. Afterward, he heads to Detroit and secures himself a temporary position teaching black children French, an act of empowerment that marks an important transition whereby he can assume a supervisory role and employ the various tools that he learned through his travels. It is worth noting that Said enlists in the Union Army in 1863 and appears to have had a distinguished career; unfortunately, he neglects to mention his activities in the Autobiography}1 After the war, Said decides that he wants to assist in the redevelopment of the American South. Initially, he joins a company of northern reformers with questionable political motives who attempt to enfranchise blacks before he settles with a group of southern whites whom he deems more trustworthy and sincere. In many ways, this negotiation of the American political terrain allows him to cultivate an outsider political voice that manages to engage the problems of racism and discrimination. In the process, he recovers a partial sense of himself and connects with a diasporic community that not only enables him to restore connections to his past but also to construct a renewed sense of purpose and meaning.
Said maintains a situated perspective in the American South and lives as a type of social exile who cultivates a public persona of an activist educator from 1866 until his death in 1882. While many scholars have already explored the history of African Muslim transgressions, it is useful to note that African Muslims managed to pass and gain all types of access to racial and social spaces not typically afforded to blacks.82 In Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington comments on how a Moroccan black man could enter a "local hotel" that barred American Negroes and gain access to a third space in the nation that allowed black Muslims to evade traditional racial boundaries and to maneuver in nonconventional ways.83 In many ways, Said exploits this space and attempts to present himself in a manner that evades traditional boundaries and conceptions of African identity. Said gains favor with a newspaper editor, who gives him writing supplies to transcribe his accounts for public lectures: "I proposed to give lectures on 'Africa and its resources.'"84 He reports that he made his "debut in Thomasville, then at Bainbridge Albany, Americus, Macon, Griffin, and Atlanta." This series of presentations marks a critical stage in the development of the African Muslim voice in the United States. Only thirty years earlier, African scholar Lamena Kebe became a matter of ethnophilological concern for the American Lyceum, whose contributions Theodore Dwight Jr. presented in a series of lectures; however, he never managed to address his audience directly, and his critiques of American education and the types of pedagogies used by teachers reached only a very limited audience. By the postbellum period, Said does not need an amanuensis to convey his voice and instead makes an account of himself with his own voice. While maintaining a profile as an activist and a lecturer, following a similar course to Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho, Said starts to gather the necessary subscriptions from white benefactors in order to publish his accounts. Clearly, Said was interested in a form of self-promotion, reminding us that he sought to circulate and form new connections.
Nevertheless, this form of activism, which is reliant upon defying conventional structures and accepted understandings of African subjectivity, is fraught with a sense of danger and transgression. In one episode, Said heads to Alabama in 1871 over the objections of his concerned friends to help blacks who lived in fear of the Ku Klux Klan; however, instead of confronting white intransience, he encounters southern blacks picketing his lectures based on the erroneous assumption that he was a northern agent. In response, Said writes, "I had nothing to tell them excepting that I traveled for my own amusement and gratification, at the same time, making a little something which I hoped would enable me to publish my Adventures. Some said I was harmless and quiet, and others that I was a Yankee emissary and a scoundrel."86 The black traveler discovers that while he or she can disrupt the conventions and social structures that maintained the postbellum racial structures, he or she will also have to overcome an often hostile or even ungrateful environment. We are reminded of Rosi Braidotti's assertion that "there is a rigorous sort of toughness in nomadic subjects."87 While we cannot claim that Said is a classic nomadic subject in the Deleuzian mode, enough similarities appear to remind us that the mobile subject must inure him or herself to the contingencies of place. In Said's case, we can state that a heroic streak drives his desires to confront agents of oppression. Later in the chapter, when lamenting the lack of appreciation that American blacks have for education, Said affirms his commitment to activism when he writes that "My honest and ardent desire is to render myself useful to my race wherever it may be. ... I shall always prefer at all times to find myself in the midst of the ignorant of my race and endeavor to teach the rising generation the advantages of education."88 While reminding his audience that he now shares a society with them and desires to disseminate the vast knowledge he had gained during his travels, he appears aware that the question of emulation is fraught with uncertainty and contestation.
Despite some difficulties and tribulations, Said becomes a figure transfixed on negotiating new forms of interconnections that allow him to simultaneously resist assimilation and achieve a type of distribution throughout the American South. He maintains an optimistic demeanor that encourages him to make new connections with both white and black people. In one episode, Said asks a white benefactor named Colonel Oates for a letter of authentication. Colonel Oates states that "The bearer, Nicholas Said, who is without a shadow of a doubt, a native African, and whose ostensible object in travelling through this country, is to obtain subscribers to his Autobiography, lectured here today."89 Subsequently, letters from other benefactors help Said to find employment as an educator in St. Stephens, Alabama, and eventually to publish his narrative in 1873. As a result, he gains a measure of fame and success and claims that "My name has become popular through Washington and Choctaw counties."90 This example of partial success in the American South shows what is possible from an educated African with the desire to affect people's lives. In addition, the presentation of the appendices about European spas reminds readers about the transnational trajectories that formed Said and partially inspired his desire "to do as much good as possible to his fellow-man in this world."91 Interestingly, on the personal cost, this sense of distribution is fraught with indeterminacy and reveals how contested third spaces in the nation were to African Muslims. At one point, he describes himself as "a stranger and a colored man." A complicated form of doubleness appears here to remind his audience of the problems of hybridity and displacement. While he presents his desire for freedom, justice, and selfaccomplishment for black Americans, he also asserts the mercurial flow of a self that borders and traditional demarcations cannot contain, evoking a sense of homelessness and the struggle to come to grips with some type of new African Muslim identity.
Sandra Ponzanesi and Daniela Merolla remind us that the "experience of migration . . . becomes lionized as the new existential condition that is based on the resiting of imposed boundaries, undermining the codified cultural outing, and negotiation of multiple site of differentiations."92 In many ways, Said's narrative prefigures postmodern notions about contemporary subjectivity, which corresponds to the unsettledness, homelessness, and displacement of Muslims living in the global age throughout the West, especially the United States. A critical component of his travel is the way he goes off the beaten track and manipulates conventional paths, forming a transgressor migrant identity not locked into one fixed way of seeing the world. As a man of the world, Said shows that identities are not fixed along permanent lines and that mobility offers the potential for self-creation and resistance. Certainly, his narrative is an impressive assertion that shows that African Muslims simply did not "disappear" and that they attempted to affect the dominant Western discourses that they encountered. Said's narrative reveals a sense of power and liberation in the African Muslim diasporic consciousness as well as the tension between dispossession and belonging. The Autobiography of Nicholas Said depicts an African Muslim on a journey of shedding his teleological baggage, developing his potential to transform and challenge the politics of difference. Ultimately, Said's narrative produces complex meanings, effects, and realities that challenge conventional attitudes about the history of Islamic identity in the United States and disrupts the language of various genres in order to address the complicated politics of identity and belonging.
1. Caeser F. Farah, Islam: Beliefs and Observances, 7th ed. (New York: Baron's Educational Services, 2003), 323.
2. Nicholas Said, The Autobiography of Nicholas Said, a Native ofBournou, Eastern Soudan, Central Africa (Memphis: Shotwell, 1873), vii. This version of the book is available at Documenting the American South, University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/said/said.html. Another edition of the text, edited by Precious Rasheeda Muhammad, is also available, complete with her introductory notes. See Precious Rasheeda Muhammad, introduction to Nicholas Said, The Autobiography of Nicholas Said, A Native ofBournou, Eastern Soudan, Central Africa (Cambridge, MA: Journal of Islam in America Press, 2000). My essay will rely on the digital reprint of the original 1873 edition that is available online and will note when citing from Muhammad's edited edition.
3. Between 1734 and 1870, eight African Muslims - Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, Ibrahima Abd ar-Rahman, Lamena Kebe, Salih Bilali, Bilali Mohammed, Umar ibn Said, Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua, and Nicholas Said - chronicled their sense of displacement into textual form. See Douglas Grant, The Fortunate Slave: An Illustration of African Slavery in the Early Eighteenth Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1968); Terry Alford, Prince among Slaves (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977); Allan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook (New York: Garland, 1984); Ronald A. T Judy, (Dis) Forming the American Canon: African -Arabic Slave Narratives and the Vernacular (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993); Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); and Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: New York University Press, 1998).
4. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America, 32-33.
5. Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks, 66.
6. It is worth pointing that Nicholas Said presented an early version of his narrative titled "A Native of Bornoo" to the Atlantic Monthly in 1867. In this truncated version, which differs in some places from the Autobiography, Said claims to have been born "a few years after the Waday war of 1831." Unfortunately, it is difficult to ascertain correct dates about Said's early life until he leaves Istanbul. The European section in the Autobiography is equally problematic, as Said claims to travel Europe during 1858-67. According to the Autobiography, he asks to leave the prince in the early spring of 1867 and then travels in the Caribbean until late June 1867. Obviously, the Autobiography adds a considerable amount of time to Said's travels in Europe and wholly ignores Said's involvement in the American Civil War. Convincing historical evidence provided by Austin shows that Said served with the Massachusetts 55th Infantry Colored Regiment in the Union Army during 1863-65. Clearly, Said left the prince's service at a much earlier time and came to the Caribbean around 1861 before heading north. One reason for this discrepancy in years is that Said may have wished to skirt around his involvement in the Union Army and subsequently wanted to alter the dates of his journeys in light of the political realities in the American South during the Reconstruction era. Until more textual material surfaces about Said, we will have to rely on a loose time line that frames Said's travels. For the sake of clarity and simplification, I will rely on the dates that Austin employed based on the Atlantic Monthly article for the period from 1831 to 1867, and then I will use the dates in the Autobiography for the period that the article did not cover, which appear to be accurate.
7. Although Said claims in the Atlantic Monthly article that he was baptized sometime in 1855, Austin claims that the correct date is November 12, 1854. See Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stores and Spiritual Struggles (New York: Routledge, 1997), 179.
8. Tabish Khair, Martin Leer, Justin D. Edwards, and Hanna Zaideh, eds., Other Routes: 1500 Years of African and Asian Travel Writing (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 214.
9. Pier M. Larson, "Horrid Journeying: Narratives of Enslavement and the Global African Diaspora," Journal of World History 19, no. 4 (December 2008): 444.
10. Said, Autobiography, 53.
11. Larson, "Horrid Journeying," xxi.
12. Ibid., xxii.
13. Christopher Mulvey, Transatlantic Manners: Social Patterns in Nineteenth -Century AngloAmerican Travel Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 7.
14. Said, A uto biography, v- vi.
15. Khair et al., Other Routes, 214.
16. This section is based on a personal correspondence between Tabish Khair and Pekka Masonen. See Khair, Other Routes, 383.
17. Said, A uto biograp hy, vii.
18. Wanni W. Anderson and Robert G. Lee, eds., Displacements and Diasporas: Asians in the Americas (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 10.
19. Said, Autobiography, vi.
20. See Angelica Bammer, ^.,Displacements: Cultural Identities in Question (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), xiv.
21. Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 438.
22. Theodore D wight Jr., "Condition and Character of Negroes in Africa," Methodist Quarterly Review (January 1864): 77-90. This article was reprinted in Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook, 428.
23. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook, 428.
24. Said, Autobiography, v.
25. Ibid., vi.
26. Hall, "Cultural Identity and Diaspora," 225.
27. During the nineteenth century, a small body of West African scholars, figures such as Abbe David Boilat, Yoro Dyao, James Africanus Horton, the Nigerian Samuel Johnson, and Reverend Carl Christian Reindorf, attempted to provide their own accounts of the region's traditions and customs. Unfortunately, as Pekka Masonen claims, their works "were not widely read nor did they have any influence on their white colleagues." See Pekka Masonen, The Negroland Revisited: Discovery and Invention of the Sudanese during the Middle Ages (Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, 2000), 29.
28. Muhammad al-Kanemi was a Muslim scholar and non -Say fa wa commander who repelled the Fulani jihads of Usman dan Fodio of the 1810s and ruled Bornu through a period of stability until his death in 1837.
29. Said, Autobiography, 14.
30. Said refutes the position that Westerners should be sympathetic to the Muslim Fulanis, a stance held by noted ethnologists of African Muslim identity such as William Hodgson Brown and Theodore Dwight Jr. For a further examination of African Muslim encounters with Western ethnophilological classification and exceptionality, see Judy, (Dis) Forming the American Canon.
31. Masonen, The Negroland Revisited, 435.
32. Said, Autobiography, 15.
33. Robert O. Collins, Africa: A Short History (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2005), 63.
34. Y. Hakan Erdem explains that "kidnapping was practiced on more or less regular basis, mostly regardless of the government's attitude by the peoples of certain frontier regions which bordered slave-recruitment areas." See Y Hakan Erdem, Slavery in the Ottoman Empire and Its Demise, 1800-1909 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996), 45.
35. Larson, "Horrid Journeying," 446.
36. Timothy Marr writes that "the forced migration of African slaves through the Sahara and across the Red Sea into Islamic lands has been estimated to be larger in number and as grueling in duration as those forced to undergo the 'Middle Passage' to the Americas." See Timothy Marr, The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 159.
37. Said, Autobiography, 55.
38. Schueller, US Orientalism: Race, Nation and Gender in Literature, 1790-1890 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), 32.
39. Said, Autobiography, 67.
40. Although many researchers have noted that a form of Arabic and Turkish ethnocentrism had developed that castigated black Africans into a menial social status, we should also note a long tradition of racial tolerance in Islam as well. Many key passages in the Qur'an admonish racial discrimination. In this regard, racial discrimination is a thorny problem for many Muslims, considering that one of the Prophet's earliest companions was a former black slave named Bilal ibn Rahab who was the faith's first muezzin, or caller to prayer. See Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).
41. Said, Autobiography, 68.
42. Ibid., 69.
43. One of the more poignant critiques in the narrative is his examination of the nature of religious differences in Tripoli. Said presents Christians and Muslims as equal partners in hatred and misunderstanding: "the Christians considered treated them as infidels, and they, in turn, looked upon the Christians, from a religious view, as no better than dogs (giour), and here the matter ended by mutual consent." In many ways, we can read the narrative as challenging the teleological foundations of Christian rhetoric present in most travel narratives. This attitude is apparent when he criticizes Western intervention in the region during the Barbary Wars. Although strained religious relations between Christians and Muslims had appeared to stabilize somewhat, the lingering aftermath of the Barbary Wars, especially the action of the "Christian navies," could still be felt. Said mentions that "The Mohammedans had not forgotten the bombardment their city received from some Christian men-of-war, years before, on account of the mistreatment of some Christians; and, in consequence, were wisely circumspect in their conduct towards them." Said scripts himself into a unique social position as critic, dissenter, and observer who does not subscribe to America's imperialistic plans and ultimately declares his desires "to see fair play in these matters." See Said, Autobiography, 70-71.
44. Michael Gomez, Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 51.
45. Since slavery in the Islamic regions had a tendency of being a temporary condition, where occasionally slaves negotiated their freedom or earned manumission for exceptional work, there were very few communities of slaves tied down to the land like those in the West. Typically, male slaves were castrated and turned into either eunuchs or soldiers; some slaves managed to gain manumission through military service. Only the domestic servant slave class tended to produce "generational" slavery; however, as Lewis notes, these communities were small. For a more detailed examination of slavery in the Islamic world, see Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East.
46. Said, Autobiography, 73.
47. Larson, "Horrid Journeying," 455.
48. Said, A uto biograp hy, 121-22.
49. Muhammad, introduction to Said, Autobiography, x.
50. Masonen (The Negroland Revisited) and Khair (Other Routes) show that nineteenthcentury Western explorers, missionaries, and historians alluded to West African pilgrims and traders who had traveled throughout North Africa, Asia, and even the Balkans. Clearly, a tradition of travel and inquiry about the "outside" world resided in West Africa, which suggests that it was not isolated from the transnational circuits of world commerce. In some ways, the narrative anticipates the controversial claim by Lewis (Race and Slavery in the Middle East) that Arabs and Muslims were not curious about Europeans in the medieval and colonial periods. Said shows that Muslims were interested in the world around them and sought to establish cross-connections.
51. Mahir Saul, "Islam and West African Anthropology," Africa Today 53 (2006): 9.
52. It is worth noting that Reschid would eventually become the grand vizier for Sultan Abdulmecid I and would become an ardent supporter of the Tanzimat social reforms.
53. Between 1842 and 1858, Reschid developed a close relationship with English ambassador Stratford Canning and other European figures: "Among the most intimate associates of my master were the French Ambassador M. De Montholon, the English Minister Lord Stratten de Ratcliffe, and the Envoy Extraordinary or Minister Plenipotentiary of Russia Prime Anatole Mentchikoff." See Said , Autobiography, 123.
54. In "A Native of Bornoo," Said is purchased by Yousouf Effedini, brother-in-law to Reschid, and then is later transferred to Yousouf Ka vass, Effedini 's younger brother.
55. Albert Parry, introduction to Allison Blakey, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1986), xii.
56. Said, Autobiography, 134.
57. Parry, introduction to Blakey, Russia and the Negro, xii.
58. Said, Autobiography, 145.
59. Ibid., 146.
60. See Cyrus Griffin, "The Unfortunate Moor," African Repository (February 1828): 364-67. This article was reprinted in Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America: A Sourcebook 136.
61. See Ghada Osman and Camille F Forbes, "Representing the West in the Arabic Language: The Slave Narrative of Omar Ibn Said," Journal of Islamic Studies 15, no. 3 (2004): 331-43.
62. Muhammad, introduction to Said, Autobiography, xvii.
63. Said, Autobiography, 161.
64. Ibid., 146.
65. Ibid., 184.
66. Ibid., 183
67. Ibid., 146
68. Ibid., 185
69. Ibid., 186
70. Ibid., 186
71. Ibid., 187
72. Paul Gilroy argues that the African diaspora and the black Atlantic represent a counterculture of modernity whereby black subjects appropriate components of Western theoretical discourses, technologies, and languages and then create an alternative modernity based on their own experiences and interactions. See Paul Gilroy, The Blac\ Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992).
73. Carla L. Peterson, "Doers of the Word" : African American Women Speakers and Writers in the North (1830-1880) (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 97.
74. Said, Autobiography, 189.
75. Ibid., 191.
76. Ibid., 190.
77. Ibid., 194.
78. Ibid., 195.
79. Ibid., 199.
80. Ibid., 200.
81. Said does not write about his experiences serving in the Union Army. Apparently, this omission is a response to the local political realities of the period.
82. See note 2 above.
83. Booker T Washington, Up From Slavery (New York: Carol, 1993), 103.
84. Said, Autobiography, 204.
85. Interestingly, Said makes no direct mention of his earlier narrative published in the Atlantic Monthly.
86. Said, Autobiography, 206.
87. Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 28.
88. Said, Autobiography, 212.
89. Ibid., 207.
90. Ibid., 211.
91. Ibid., 213.
92. Sandra Ponzanesi and Daniela Merolla, eds., Migrant Cartographies: New Cultural and Literary Spaces in Post-Colonial Europe (London: Merolla Lexington Books, 2005), 5.
Safet Dabovie is a lecturer for the Program of Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University. He teaches courses in composition and nineteenth -century American and African American literature. His dissertation, titled "Displacement and the Negotiation of an American Identity in African Muslim Slave Narratives, " argues that in order to respond to the transformations caused by their displacement, African Muslim narrators produced complicated expressive texts that probi ematiz e national and religious boundaries, requiring us to expand the traditional methodologies of reading slave narratives.