The Problem of Slavery

The Problem of Slavery

One of the biggest challenges that the historians and the anthropologists who are interested in slavery face are deciding whether there even one single institution of slavery that exists across time and space that they can study. It is tempting to assume that all details might differ but there is something called slavery out there, popping up throughout history and that we would know it if we saw it. But of course, just as Dr. Jonathan Brown explains, what we would recognize as slavery would be defined by our own cultural memory of what the English word slave means to us.

When we think about slaves, the picture we build in our heads is the convention we have grown to relate slavery with. Black slaves brutally treated like animals or even worse. Our idea of slavery is completely radicalized as degradation of human beings. We can’t really blame ourselves for this perception, we perceive what we have been made to perceive. Slavery has always been portrayed in the media, or by the people in power to be that of severe inhumanity done towards a certain group of people. Dr. Jonathan Brown, through his lectures – Jonathan Brown Slavery clarifies that however, this is fairly rare in reality. Generally, in human history, slavery is not radicalized; it is an economic and living condition that anybody from any race can fall into.

Generally, there are pretty strong laws governing slavery. These laws prevent you from brutal treatments of other people. Media and movies have seared images of slavery in our minds where African men and women are being seized by ruthless slave traders who are torn from their homes and packed like cattle on slave ships, sold like cattle in the auction and then landed up working and being treated in the most inhuman way most of their lives. Slavery is thought of reducing a person to a status of property owned by another person and deprive them of their natural right of Freedom.


The problem with slavery, as Dr Jonathan Brown expertly points out is not in the word or the meaning of it, it lies in our assumptions or memories of what we have seen being portrayed of what slavery means or what slaves are.