Scientific, or—in modern eyes—para-scientific texts (under-researched compared with the religious, normative, or literary texts towards which most analysis has been oriented) could in fact give useful insights into the ways women were represented. In this article we will focus on the description of female slaves (jawārin) contained in a treatise on physiognomy (firāsah) of the first half of the fourteenth century with a view to add a small piece to the complex picture of the images of women in the Mamluk period. Ours will thus be a textually oriented approach directed towards the discourse of physiognomy, which was considered a secondary natural science inextricably tied to medicine. In this article we shall translate the section on female slaves of the Kitāb al-siyāsah fī ʿilm al-firāsah of Shams al-Dīn al-Dimashqī; then map its intertextual connections by outlining its relation to its antecedents, its parallels, and its sources (or what the author claims to be such). The text will then be read in conversation with materials on female slaves of a legal nature (normative texts and purchase deeds), in order to compare their different narratives of the feminine and to show their nature as a construct. The documents we intend to question could also be relevant for a gender studies approach with a historical perspective. Nevertheless, considering the kind of approach we have chosen, we limit ourselves to drawing the attention of the experts in this field to such materials.




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