Captivity narratives are usually stories of people captured by enemies whom they consider uncivilized, or whose beliefs and customs they oppose. The best-known captivity narratives are those concerning the indigenous peoples of North America. These narratives (and questions about their accuracy) have an enduring place in literature, history, ethnography, and the study of Native peoples.

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  • Captivity narratives are usually stories of people captured by enemies whom they consider uncivilized, or whose beliefs and customs they oppose. The best-known captivity narratives are those concerning the indigenous peoples of North America. These narratives (and questions about their accuracy) have an enduring place in literature, history, ethnography, and the study of Native peoples. However, captivity narratives have also come to play a major role in the study of contemporary religious movements, thanks to scholars of religion like David G. Bromley and James R. Lewis. In this article, both main types of captivity narratives are considered.Traditionally, historians have made limited use of certain captivity narratives. They have regarded the genre with suspicion because of its ideological underpinnings. As a result of new scholarly approaches, historians with a more certain grasp of Native American cultures are distinguishing between plausible statements of fact and value-laden judgements in order to study the narratives as rare sources from "inside" Native societies.Contemporary historians such as Linda Colley and anthropologists such as Pauline Turner Strong have also found the narratives useful in analyzing how the colonists constructed the "other", as well as what the narratives reveal about the settlers' sense of themselves and their culture, and the experience of crossing the line to another. Colley has studied the long history of English captivity in other cultures, both the Barbary pirate captives who preceded those in North America, and British captives in cultures such as India, after the North American experience.Certain North American captivity narratives involving Native peoples were published from the 18th through the 19th centuries, but they reflected a well-established genre in English literature. There had already been English accounts of captivity by Barbary pirates, or in the Middle East, which established some of the major elements of the form. Following the American experience, additional accounts were written after British people were captured during exploration and settlement in India and East Asia.Other types of captivity narratives, such as those recounted by apostates from religious movements (i.e. "cult survivor" tales), have remained an enduring feature of modern media, and currently appear in books, periodicals, film, and television.The unifying factor in most captivity narratives, whether they stem from geopolitical or religious conflicts, is that the captive portrays the captors' way of life as alien, undesirable, and incompatible with the captive's own (typically dominant) culture. This underscores the utility of captivity narratives in garnering support for social control measures, such as removing Native Americans to "reservations", or stigmatizing participation in religious movements – whether Catholicism in the nineteenth century, or ISKCON in the twentieth. (en)
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  • Captivity narratives are usually stories of people captured by enemies whom they consider uncivilized, or whose beliefs and customs they oppose. The best-known captivity narratives are those concerning the indigenous peoples of North America. These narratives (and questions about their accuracy) have an enduring place in literature, history, ethnography, and the study of Native peoples. (en)
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  • Captivity narrative (en)
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