Captured at Sea

How is it possible for six men to take a Liberian-flagged oil tanker hostage and negotiate a huge pay out for the return of its crew and 2.2 million barrels of crude oil? In his gripping new book, Jatin Dua answers this question by exploring the unprecedented upsurge in maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia in the twenty-first century. Taking the reader inside pirate communities in Somalia, onboard multinational container ships, and within insurance offices in London, Dua connects modern day pirates to longer histories of trade and disputes over protection. In our increasingly technological world, maritime piracy represents not only an interruption but an attempt to insert oneself within the world of oceanic trade. Captured at Sea moves beyond the binaries of legal and illegal to illustrate how the seas continue to be key sites of global regulation, connectivity, and commerce today.


"This is an engaging and vivid narrative, based on extraordinary fieldwork and insightful observations. It is filled with compelling anecdotes, events, and characters, and it tells a story that is both intrinsically interesting and filled with intriguing insights about power, violence, and sovereignty."
James Ferguson
author of Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution
"This brilliant and absorbing book is like no other. It is first and foremost an astonishing ethnography of the politics of piracy and ransom in Somalia. But Dua also critically expands our imagined maps of piracy to show how deeply European insurance and shipping businesses and even NATO warships are implicated in the political economy of protection in the Western Indian Ocean."
Laleh Khalili
Professor of Politics at SOAS University of London
"In this remarkable ethnography, we see Somali piracy as an economy of capture and redistribution intimately tied to a long history of Indian Ocean trade. Rather than an outmoded aberration, Dua argues for piracy as one among many infrastructures of protection that knit together a transregional geography of power, property, and profit. A truly impressive achievement."
Ajantha Subramanian
author of Shorelines: Space and Rights in South India

Full review in Society and Space (November 2021)

Roundtable Discussion of Captured At Sea in Journal of Legal Anthropology Forum

(December 2021)

Podcast  with the New Books Network