Margins of Belief: Renegades as frontier Protagonists in the Early Modern Mediterranean

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University Club, Room 212
@ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Closely cropped portrait image of Steve Hutchinson-side view of his face

Monday Seminar:

Steven Hutchinson

Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2010-2011)

Spanish and Portuguese


Corsair activity, i.e., state-sponsored piracy carried out in the name of both Christian and Muslim lands, was largely responsible for the presence of millions of captives/slaves in the early modern Mediterranean. During this period some three hundred thousand men, women, and children, most of them captives, converted to Islam in quite diverse circumstances, while only a tiny fraction of this number converted to Christianity. These converts to Islam, vilified as renegades in the European languages, significantly altered their new societies and, in a number of cases, rose to very high positions within them. They also figured importantly, even obsessively, in treatises and imaginative literature of Christian countries, yet they rarely spoke or wrote about themselves except when forced to do so. This talk will raise questions such as the following: Who “were” the renegades, and what can they tell us about the early modern Mediterranean? How can we get to know them through the distorting and often falsifying genres of texts available to us? What did their crossing over to Islam and Muslim lands mean for them and for everyone else? What were their strategies and capabilities, and how can their “duplicity” (doubleness) be best understood?


Steven Hutchinson received his doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago in 1985, and is Professor of Spanish at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His first book, Cervantine Journeys (University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), plots out a philosophy of the journey and its relationship to narrative within a comparative framework, with primary focus on Cervantes’ novels. His second book, Economía ética en Cervantes (Alcalá de Henares, Centro de Estudios Cervantinos, 2001), approaches ethical thought and behavior in literary works within the perspective of a system of values (e.g., what is a person worth?) and obligations (who owes what to whom, and how are these debts incurred and paid?), once again with primary reference to the writings of Cervantes. He has published over 40 articles on topics related to early modern literature, mainly Spanish. His grants include one from the Institute for Research in the Humanities and a year-long Fulbright research fellowship in Madrid.