Ottoman Elite Enslavement and "Social Death"

Ehud R. Toledano*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter reviews three aspects of Ottoman elite enslavement, beginning with the issue of kul/harem honor/dishonor, moving on to their being 'socially dead', and ending with the notion of 'parasitism', that in fact enables a far more realistic understanding of Ottoman enslavement in general, not just its elite component. Orlando Patterson's insistence on dishonor as a major, indispensable element in the definition of enslavement is, to Ottoman historians, its main Achilles' heel. So, for a historian of the Ottoman Empire, the Patterson model of global enslavement conforms only partially to the realities of life in the sultans' domains. Since Patterson's misconception is predicated to a large extent on his notions of natal alienation, kinlessness, and social death, the problem posed by these is next on our agenda. A great deal of criticism has been leveled by historians of Islamic societies at Patterson's notions of social death and fictive kinship.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOn Human Bondage
Subtitle of host publicationAfter Slavery and Social Death
EditorsJohn Bodel , Walter Scheidel
Place of PublicationChichester, West Sussex ; Malden, MA
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781119162544
ISBN (Print)9781119162483
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameAncient world--comparative histories


  • Criticism
  • Fictive kinship
  • Islamic societies
  • Natal alienation
  • Orlando Patterson
  • Ottoman elite enslavement
  • Parasitism
  • Socially dead


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