Fugitives, Smugglers, and Thieves

Piracy and Personhood in American Literature

By Sharada Balachandran Orihuela

248 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4092-1
    Published: May 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4091-4
    Published: May 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4093-8
    Published: April 2018

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In this book, Sharada Balachandran Orihuela examines property ownership and its connections to citizenship, race and slavery, and piracy as seen through the lens of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature. Balachandran Orihuela defines piracy expansively, from the familiar concept of nautical pirates and robbery in international waters to postrevolutionary counterfeiting, transnational slave escape, and the illegal trade of cotton across the Americas during the Civil War. Weaving together close readings of American, Chicano, and African American literature with political theory, the author shows that piracy, when represented through literature, has imagined more inclusive and democratic communities than were then possible in reality. The author shows that these subjects are not taking part in unlawful acts only for economic gain. Rather, Balachandran Orihuela argues that piracy might, surprisingly, have served as a public good, representing a form of transnational belonging that transcends membership in any one nation-state while also functioning as a surrogate to citizenship through the ownership of property. These transnational and transactional forms of social and economic life allow for a better understanding of the foundational importance of property ownership and its role in the creation of citizenship.

About the Author

Sharada Balachandran Orihuela is assistant professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Maryland.
For more information about Sharada Balachandran Orihuela, visit the Author Page.


“In this novel and highly original book, Sharada Balachandran Orihuela provides us with an unsettling yet fascinating way to look at the intimate ties between property ownership and national membership.”—Janet Neary, Hunter College

Fugitives, Smugglers, and Thieves establishes not only the relationship between piracy, property ownership, and citizenry but also historical piracy’s ties to its contemporary manifestations. Balachandran Orihuela tells a compelling story with clarity and elegance.”—Gretchen Woertendyke, University of South Carolina