Stonehill Criminology Professor Plumbs the Depths of Modern Maritime Piracy

October 3, 2017


Anamika Twyman-Ghoshal - Assistant Professor of Criminology

Maritime piracy is not a pervasive threat or a frequent thought for most people living on the East Coast of the United States. For Assistant Professor of Criminology Anamika Twyman-Ghoshal, however, piracy on a different east coast — of Africa — forms the foundation of a wide body of research upon which her academic career in maritime crime is built. 

A scholar of modern piracy, Twyman-Ghoshal is the author of the Contemporary Maritime Piracy Database, one of the most comprehensive international piracy databases ever created. By collecting international piracy data over 20 years, from 1991 to 2010, Twyman-Ghoshal identified both a shift in worldwide piracy — from the waters off Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore toward the seas off Somalia — and an increase in a unique form of piracy crimes in that region. From there, she homed in on the new piracy hotspot of Somalia to better understand the forces behind the rise of piracy in that region; namely, a civil war and a decline in the fishing-dominated economy. 

So when the international public-interest journalism site ProPublica was looking for a maritime crime expert for an in-depth report on cruise ship safety, Twyman-Ghoshal was a natural fit. “They were able to tap my knowledge to explain some of the strengths and weaknesses of cruise ship security,” she says. “Combining my criminological research in maritime crime and my background in international law, I could shed light on some of the issues that apply when a ship is in international waters.” 

Committed to Broader Awareness

Twyman-Ghoshal, who is quoted in the resulting ProPublica article, sees the act of sharing her research through this and other public venues as a critical, yet often underserved, element of academic life. “Teaching is only one piece, but we also need to be speaking to the wider public to realize the impact we want,” she says. “Helping others understand issues and achieving evidence- based change with those issues — that’s part of our social justice mission.”

To extend her knowledge beyond the confines of academia, Twyman-Ghoshal doesn’t stop with the media — she also works with professional organizations and government agencies to educate those who can benefit from her research. In addition to sharing the Contemporary Maritime Piracy Database with the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau and the U.S. Department of State, she recently authored a piece for piracy-studies.org, a research portal for maritime security.

 That same desire to link academia with the wider world was also behind a Stonehill pilot program created by Twyman-Ghoshal with Political Science & International Studies Department Chair Anna Ohanyan. Called the Learning Inside Out Network (LION), the program linked students with professional organizations internationally, such as the Serbia War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. Students in Twyman-Ghoshal’s Global Crime course recently traveled to Serbia as LION Scholars to intern at related organizations — including ASTRA Anti-Trafficking Action and the Victimology Society of Serbia — while conducting their own independent research.

“This program is giving students the same contextual knowledge and practical experience they will need to eventually take their own knowledge into the world and effect change,” Twyman-Ghoshal says.