Dec 052012

Davis, Robert C. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. Palgrave MacMillan, 2003 Amazon

What you might call “Mediterranean slavery”, of Christian Europeans captured through piracy or raids and enslaved in North Africa or the Near East, coexisted with Atlantic slavery, roughly paralleling the dates. While the numbers about Atlantic slavery are pretty solid, the numbers on Mediterranean slavery are far less so, and Davis is forced to piece together rough estimates from a variety of different sources.

Trying to pin down numbers of Barbary slavery is beyond the scope of this blog, and I don’t want to get into any kind of “oppression Olympics” about different slave economies. (Discussions of white slavery tend to bring out people with an axe to grind. One discussion of Barbary coast slavery on Fetlife included a post with a link to a white pride site. This included lengthy incoherent rants about the place of white people in history. One passage included an array of pictures of tribal people with facial tattoos or body modifications, followed by another array of white people with facial tattoos or piercings. The caption said that these white people took no pride in their heritage and were trying to imitate other races.)

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Feb 182012

Mails, Thomas E. Sundancing: The Great Sioux Piercing Ritual Council Oak Books, 1998 Gbooks

In writing about the Sun Dance, one is tempted to being with a vivid description of the absorbing, flesh-piercing ritual. But to do so is a tragic mistake, for in focusing everything upon a single, albeit sensational, fraction of an entire and splendid religious ceremony, the overall significance of the four-day event is missed, and it is inevitable that the rest of the Sun Dance will be ignored and misunderstood — even by some Indians.


While working on Chapter 1 of the book, I wanted to spend a paragraph or two on the First Nations Sun Dance as an example of physical ordeals in religious practice. However, I wanted to make sure I got the details as correct as possible, so that sent me on another research trip. Sometimes you have to read a whole book just to make sure that a couple of sentences are accurate.

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Aug 062010

A Man Called Horse, 1970, dir. Elliot Silverstein IMDB

This movie probably did a lot to inspire the modern primitive movement, portraying a rather familiar story of a “civilized” person being initiated into a “primitive” culture. I’m not going to address the historical or cultural accuracy of this film, as I’m not really qualified and also it’s not terribly relevant to this discussion. (The film claims to be based on authentic sources, but so did Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS.)

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May 102007

Burkert, Walter. Ancient Mystery Cults Harvard College, 1987.


The Villa of the Mysteries, and the mural sketched above, is an increasingly important part of the origins of BDSM, and I’m even thinking of using it for the cover illustration (should there ever be a cover.) But what is it? Was it religion or pornography or something else?

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Apr 062007

Glucklich, Ariel. Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Although this is a fairly academic read, Glucklich’s book has given me a lot of food for thought on the role of pain in human life and society. It’s a shame that Glucklich doesn’t discuss sadomasochism and instead confines himself to medical and religious contexts.

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Nov 262006

I’ve finished Victor Turner’s The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (next is his Dramas, Fields and Metaphors). As I stated before, Turner defines ritual as a three-part process: separation, liminality and aggregation. The neophyte is separated from his prior social status, enters a threshold or ambiguous state and is then re-integrated into society in a new social status.

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Nov 172006

I’m reading Victor Turner‘s The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure. BDSM is, obviously, a ritual affair, but what function does ritual serve?

According to Turner, drawing on Arnold van Gennep, rites of passage have three phases:

* separation. The initiate is separated from his or her usual social setting and role.
* margin or limen (Latin for “threshold”). The initiate’s social status is unclear, and he or she enters a new social setting where the rules are ambiguous and/or contrary to previous rules.
* aggregation. The initiate is reintegrated into society in his or her new social status.

The middle, liminal phase is what is relevant here. This is where I see the parallels between BDSM sexuality.

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