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Black PrometheusRace and Radicalism in the Age of Atlantic Slavery$
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Jared Hickman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190272586

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190272586.001.0001

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Imam Shamil, or the Modern Prometheus of Caucasus

Imam Shamil, or the Modern Prometheus of Caucasus

(p.265) 6 Imam Shamil, or the Modern Prometheus of Caucasus
Black Prometheus

Jared Hickman

Oxford University Press

A fascinating unintended consequence of pursuing the racialist logic of identifying Prometheus with the Caucasus over and against Africa was the nomination as an avatar of freedom of the Sufi imam, Shamil, who led a jihad against the Russian empire during the 1830s and 1840s. The characterization of a militant Muslim as a modern Prometheus of sorts, a genius loci of liberty-loving Caucasianness, raised profound questions about the nature of Promethean modernity that are with us more than ever in a post-9/11 world. What would it mean to make—via the Prometheus comparison—a man stereotypically understood to be slavishly devoted to Allah and, in kind, to demand slavish devotion from his followers into the leading edge of the revolutionary tide of modernity? The ambivalent Prometheanization of Shamil thus becomes another site at which the modern political theology of freedom is conceptualized and contested.

Keywords:   Imam Shamil, Islam, jihad, Prometheus, race, slavery, Caucasus

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