Brock professor leads ransoming conference in Toronto

A Brock University professor will lead a conference on ransoming April 25-26 in Toronto.

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, April 25-26.

Convened by Brock University Prof. Olatunji Ojo (African History, African Diaspora, and Slavery), Prof. Paul E. Lovejoy (Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History and Distinguished Research Professor, York University), and Jennifer Lofkrantz (Islamic World and African History, SUNY-Geneseo), 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 Prof. 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.

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