Piracy and kidnapping people for ransom are age-old problems that persist today. The issues surrounding the historical and current practice of ransoming will be the focus of an upcoming conference.
Perspectives on Historical and Contemporary Ransoming Practices will take place from April 25 to 26 at York’s Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples, Keele campus.
The conference is centred on the ransoming frontier between the worlds of Christianity and Islam. It will examine both historical contexts of ransoming in the Mediterranean and West Africa, as well as the more recent examples of kidnapping and holding hostages in the context of radical Islam and jihad in contemporary days in the Red Sea and western Indian Ocean.
The focus on practices that require an examination of Islamic societies and the friction between Islamic fundamentalism and European and western global hegemony will highlight long-standing issues of perspective on historical issues.
The goal is to promote dialogue across regional and disciplinary divides between scholars working on different aspects of ransoming, particularly from the 16th to 21st centuries. The idea is to provide a better understanding of the practices of ransoming and the role of ransoming in the economics of captivity and enslavement; the formation, exploitation and alteration of social, ethnic and religious identity; and the interactions of individuals across physical, social, ethnic and religious boundaries.
The keynote address, “Towards a Sociological Understanding of Contemporary Ransoming of Commercial Vessels along the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean”, will be delivered by sociology Professor Abdi Kusow of Iowa State University. Kusow’s research interests include globalization and transnational migration, the contemporary African diaspora, social transformation and social change in Africa, African immigrants in North America, racial formation and Somalia.
Panel discussions over the two days will encompass Mediterranean ransoming, ransoming in Western Africa and contemporary ransoming. Jennifer Lofkrantz of the State University of New York – Geneseo will look at “Muslim West African Intellectual Reactions to Illegal Enslavement and the Strategy of Ransoming.” Olatunji Ojo of Brock University will discuss “‘Matter of Money’: Ransoming and the Crisis of the State in West Africa.”
Suzanne Schwarz of the University of Worcester will examine “Ransoming Practices and Barbary Coast Slavery: Negotiations Relating to Liverpool Slave Traders in the Late Eighteenth Century”, while Paul E. Lovejoy, Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History and Distinguished Research Professor at York University, will deliver the concluding remarks.
Proceedings of the conference will be published in a special issue of African Economic History and published as a volume in the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora, Africa World Press.
For more information and a list of speakers and topics, visit the Harriet Tubman Institute website.