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Arming SlavesFrom Classical Times to the Modern Age$
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Christopher Leslie Brown and Philip D. Morgan

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780300109009

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300109009.001.0001

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Making the Chikunda: Military Slavery and Ethnicity in Southern Africa, 1750–1900

Making the Chikunda: Military Slavery and Ethnicity in Southern Africa, 1750–1900

Chapter:
(p.95) Making the Chikunda: Military Slavery and Ethnicity in Southern Africa, 1750–1900
Source:
Arming Slaves
Author(s):

Allen Isaacman

Derek Peterson

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300109009.003.0005

Scholars of military slavery have offered various theories to explain why owners outside the American South armed their slaves. Max Weber, for example, argued that slaves were ideal clients of patrimonial rulers. However, this explanation does not take into account the lived experiences and political imaginations of slaves themselves. This chapter examines how military slaves on prazos—Portuguese-run estates along the Zambesi River—came to define themselves as sharers of a new social identity known as Chikunda (“the conquerors”). It first looks at the relation between military slavery and economic production on the prazos before discussing how slave soldiers valorized courage and military skill as they performed dangerous tasks. Slave soldiers defined themselves as Chikunda and celebrated their physical prowess through language, songs, ceremonies, initiation rituals, clothing, and facial tattoos.

Keywords:   military slavery, military slaves, prazos, Zambesi River, Chikunda, economic production, slave soldiers, courage, military skill, rituals

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