Stephen Snelders, author of the The Devil’s Anarchy

17 June, 2021 – Stephen Snelders, author of the The Devil’s Anarchy (available here). 

We’re continuing our series of lectures and discussion with Dutch historian Stephen Snelders, who’s going to introduce his work on pirates. There are three texts on the reading list for this session, which can be found here.

Stephen Snelders is a historian of drugs, colonial medicines, and piracy. He is the author of, among other books, The Devil’s Anarchy (2014).

Last night's Reading Group with  Stephen Snelders, author of the The Devil's Anarchy was literally attacked by an unusual group of bots designed solely to disrupt the meeting. Normally bots are trying to send links to commercial or sex sites and have specific, pragmatic purposes. 

Our guest bots were just playing a load of music and kept appearing throughout the reading group. For the first time in almost a year of the Museum's existence, we had to keep unknown users out. 

Personally, I had the feeling that the Museum of Care was under a military siege, which was pretty funny keeping in mind our group's theme: the history of the Golden Age of Piracy.

According to our guest Stephen Snelders, who is a historian, the real pirate autonomies were far from utopias. They were marginal criminalized communities, although they remained the zones of freedom.

And their freedom consisted not in their lack of rules or a particularly openness but the very fact that these communities, unlike the Empires, could and did constantly change their rules. Every pirate ship, every pirate settlement had its own set of rules and laws. When there was a disagreement between the crew members on a ship, and it happened all the time, pirates would take another ship, and part of the crew would go ahead, making a new "pirate republic." The same happened when there were too many people on the ship. 

Stephen talked a little about how autonomous communities functioned, the rules that controlled alcohol, gambling, sexual behavior, and the social security system. 

Very important, in my opinion, is that the rules were different on different ships. So, for example, some ships wouldn't let women on, and others had female pirate captains. 

I have friends in the pirate parties of various countries. So I wanted to suggest that we have a pirate-themed conference at the Museum of Care sometime in the late fall. If anyone wants to take part in its preparation, please lets us know. 

Going back to the story of the bot attack, it's pretty obvious that we will have to introduce pre-registration for the reading groups and the Assemblies. 

We will become less open. We will be able to hold fewer events. 

However, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Initially, we were meeting frantically (every week). We were jumping from one topic to another, from one model of social organization to the next one. 

Most importantly, we all just met. I vaguely knew some people, but obviously not enough to understand if it would be possible to work together.  

As we got to know each other better, some of us became friends. Some had arguments. Some stayed in neutral goodwill. Isn't it what generally happened between humans?

I'm sure none of us had or have eval agendas or fascist intentions, but clearly, some of us didn't get along well or had radically different ideas about what Museum of Care could or should become. Back to our reading group about Pirates, this problem has a great solution: just do what you think is right by yourself. 

The Museum of Care is one of many possible projects out there in the world. It is not and should not become the world's best, biggest and the Only Museum. 

I've learned a lot during this year and, most importantly, that I have survived this year at all and didn't lose my mind. 

So thank you all for this! 


See below the video of the reading group: