Abstract and keywords

Ritið 3/13 - 2013

Dagný Kristjánsdóttir: The Turk raid and Guðríður Símonardóttir as a fetish

Barbarian pirates abducted over 350 Icelanders in the Turk raid (1627) and sold them as slaves in Algeria. This event was a part of a substantial white slave trade which the Ottoman empire tolerated but was not part of their economic affairs. In Iceland, the Turk raid unfolded as a historical trauma with waves of social consequences. The experience of the abducted Icelanders is to some extent described in the unique book The Travels of reverend Ólafur Egilsson (1636) from the Westman Islands. Three letters from Icelanders who had been sold as slaves in Algeria testify to their displacement, ambivalence and mimicry in the interaction between the captives and their masters.
Guðríður Símonardóttir, abducted from the Westman Islands, managed to put her savings into her ransom, which was paid by Icelandic authorities nine years later. Back in Iceland she was nicknamed as Turk-Gudda and thus linked her to the exotic culture that abducted her. Legends and folklore spun around her echo images of „forbidden fruit“ or the exotic and seductive other (the exotic other). She functions as a fetish in order for people to get a grip on their fear of foreigners by turning her into the enemy and mastering him thus – if not materially, then in histories and fantasies. With a fetish like that they could tell themselves and others that the Icelanders were best off as isolated as possible for all eternity.

Keywords: The Turk raid, white slavery, postcolonialism, literature, feminism

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