Captive Objects: Religious Artifacts, Piracy, and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Literatures, Cultures, and Languages


For residence at John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in 2020-21


Religious artifacts—Korans, Bibles, crosses, pictures of Christ and the Virgin, and relics—circulated in the thousands in the early modern western Mediterranean, crossing boundaries between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This mobility was largely a byproduct of piracy, which between 1500 and 1800 was the fate of two to three million persons and intertwined Spain, Morocco, and Ottoman Algiers. This project argues that disparate religious artifacts trapped by the plunder economy acquired a common identity as contentious objects. As religious communities articulated conflicting claims over them in learned discourses and in practice, they became religious boundary markers, defining group membership and determining how these groups interacted with one another.