Conference: Perspectives on Historical and Contemporary Ransoming Practices

Perspectives on Historical and Contemporary Ransoming Practices
Harriet Tubman Institute
York University
April 25-26, 2014

The frequency of piracy and kidnappings in the 21st century revives an age long global practice of capturing people in exchange for ransom payment. In the Mediterranean world until the early nineteenth century, it was an act of war between Christian and Muslim countries. Prisoners taken on the Mediterranean and even during raids on shore were held for ransom, with the threat of enslavement and continued servitude if not liberated. In more recent times, children, parents, and spouses have been kidnapped and held to ransom, and sometimes wealthy individuals are targeted for financial gain. Still in other cases, individuals are held for political reasons, which may also involve a bid for financial gain, as in the case of pirates operating in the Red Sea, western Indian Ocean, and West Africa. How do we have a better understanding of the practices of ransoming and the role of ransoming in the economics of captivity and enslavement? What are the linkages between historical and contemporary ransoming practices, between ransoming and the formation, exploitation, and alteration of social, ethnic, and religious identity; human interactions across physical, social, ethnic, religious, and state boundaries; and between ransoming operations and social structure?

These questions and related ones will be addressed at the Conference on ‘Perspectives on Historical and Contemporary Ransoming Practices’ to be held at the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples, York University on April 25-26, 2014. Convened by Professors Paul E. Lovejoy (Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History and Distinguished Research Professor, York University), Jennifer Lofkrantz (Islamic World and African History, SUNY-Geneseo), and Olatunji Ojo (African History, African Diaspora, and Slavery, Brock University, St Catharines, Ontario), the purpose of the Conference is to promote dialogue across regional and disciplinary divides between scholars and policy makers working on different aspects of ransoming.

The keynote address will be given by Professor Abdi Kusow of the Sociology Department, Iowa State University, Ames. His 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.

Proceedings of the two-day conference will be published in a special issue of African Economic History and as volume in the Harriet Tubman Series on the African Diaspora, Africa World Press.

April 25-26, 2014

FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 2014
Opening and Welcome: Annie Bunting, Interim Director, Tubman Institute

9:45am – 12:00 Panel I: Mediterranean Ransoming I
Chair: Constanze Weise, University of Arkansas -Monticello

Suzanne Schwarz, University of Worcester, “Ransoming Practices and Barbary Coast Slavery: Negotiations Relating to Liverpool Slave Traders in the Late Eighteenth Century” 

Christine Sears, University of Alabama-Huntsville, ” ‘Arab Speculators’: Arab-African Masters and Slave Ransoming in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries”

Mohamed Mohamed, University of Windsor, ” ‘The Disgrace of Christendom’: Narratives of Captivity in Southern Morocco”

Discussant: Ismael Montana, Northern Illinois University

12:00 – 1:15pm – Lunch

1:15pm – 3:30pm
Panel II: Ransoming in Western Africa
Chair: José C. Curto, York University

Olatunji Ojo, Brock University, ” ‘Matter of Money’: Ransoming and the Crisis of the State in West Africa

Nathan Carpenter, Lehigh University, “Alliance-Making, Alliance-Breaking: Family, Hostages and Politics in Precolonial Senegambia”

Katrina Keefer, York University, “Ransoming Children in Sierra Leone”

Discussant: Martin Klein, University of Toronto

3:30pm- 3:45pm – Coffee Break

4:00pm – 5:30pm – KEYNOTE Abdi Kusow, Iowa State University, “Towards a Sociological Understanding of Contemporary Ransoming of Commercial Vessels along the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean”

5:30pm – Reception

9:00 am – 12:00 Panel III: Mediterranean Ransoming II
Chair: Nielson Bezerra, Banting Fellow, York University

Daniel Hershenzon, University of Connecticut,  “Ransoming Muslims: North African Captives and their Ransom in the Early Modern Period”

Ariel Salzmann, Queen’s University, “Ransom, Enslavement or Amende Honorable? Deciding the Fate of a Rebellious Ottoman Captive in mid-18th Century Malta”

Gillian Weiss, Case Reserve University, “The Price of a Turk’: Liberating Rowers from France’s Royal Galleys”

Discussant: Abdi Kusow, Iowa State University

12:00 – 1:15 pm – Lunch
Film: Marie Rodet, The Diambourou: Slavery and Emancipation in Kayes – Mali

1:15pm – 3:15pm Panel IV: Ransoming in Western Africa II
Chair: Joel Quirk, University of Witswaterrand

Jennifer Lofkrantz, SUNY-Geneseo, “Muslim West African Intellectual Reactions to Illegal Enslavement and the Strategy of Ransoming”

Marie Rodet, SOAS, “The Economics of Slave Ransoming in the Western Sudan at the turn of the 20th Century”

Yacine Daddi Adoun, University of Kansas, “Ransom or not to Ransom: This is the Question: Strategies of Ransoming in the Regency of Algiers and Independent Algeria”

Discussant: Stacey Sommerdyk, University of Witswaterrand

3:15pm – 5:15pm Panel V: Contemporary Ransoming
Chair: Annie Bunting, Tubman Institute

Roy Doron, Winston-Salem University, “The Political Economy of Ransoming: The ENI Workers in Biafra”

Tunde Babawale, University of Lagos, “The Political Economy of Ransoming and Hostage-Taking in Contemporary Nigeria”

Amy Niang, University of the Witwatersand, “Ransoming and the Political Economy of Monatarized Violence in the Sahel,”

Discussant: Joel Quirk, University of Witswaterrand and Research Fellow, Yale University

5:30pm Concluding Comments: Paul E. Lovejoy, York University

7:00pm – Dinner

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