Daniel Hershenzon will be giving a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Monday, November 10, 2014, from 12 to 1:30pm, at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. His talk is entitled “Ransom in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Exchanging Muslim for Christian Captives.”

Daniel Hershenzon is Assistant Professor in the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at the University of Connecticut. He will be a Visiting Fellow at the Bard Graduate Center from October to December 2014. Hershenzon’s research focuses on the history of early modern Spain and the Mediterranean, slavery and captivity, cultural intermediaries, conversion, and writing and its uses. He has published articles on Mediterranean reciprocal religious violence, the exchange of Muslim and Christian captives, and the Moroccan library of Muley Zidan incorporated into the Spanish El Escorial, in 1614. While in residence at the BGC, he will be working on a book entitled Captivity, Commerce and Communication: Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean. The book explores the 17th-century entangled histories of Spain, Morocco and Ottoman Algiers, arguing that ransom mechanisms associated with the captivity of Christians and Muslims conditioned the formation of the Mediterranean as a socially, politically, and economically integrated region.

The ransom of captives has recently become a burgeoning theme among scholars of the early modern Mediterranean. Most scholars sharply distinguish between captivity of Christians and captivity of Muslims. The empirical basis for this claim is that since Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco did not develop ransom institutions similar to the French and Iberian Orders of Redemption, Muslims were enslaved never to be liberated in contrast to Christians who were captives waiting for their ransom. Theoretically, this perspective privileges a national rather than a Mediterranean perspective. Scholars’ decision to focus on more “real” objects such as nations translates into studies of Spanish, Italian or Algerian captives rather than of Mediterranean captivity, and thus overshadows the interdependence and links between the two captivities. In contrast, Hershenzon’s talk at the BGC will insist on the need and potential of examining the captivity of Muslim and Christian as interdependent and forming part of a single Mediterranean system. Hershenzon will focus on how simple Christian and Muslim folks, men but more often women, negotiated the exchange of their spouses, sons, or siblings. Hershenzon’s point of departure will be the moment of the exchange of captives or the negotiations that led up to that moment rather than captives’ religious confession or national community of belonging. When examined from this perspective, not only does it become clear that the captivity and ransom of Muslims and Christians were entangled but also that while captivity brutally ruptured the lives of individuals it simultaneously helped make the Mediterranean into a political, economic, and also social space.

Coffee and tea will be served; attendees are welcome to bring their own lunch.

RSVP is required.