[P6472] Oceanic and coastal afterlives: Ethnographies of seafarers in the waters of the Suez Canal

Created by Nefissa Naguib
Wednesday, 12/01/21 11:30 am


This panel examines the oceanic afterlife of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, 150 years ago. The inauguration of the canal constitutes a trans-maritime moment, when the waters of the Indian Ocean flowed into the Mediterranean via the Red Sea. In the panel, we will zoom onto the human and other-than-human seafarers that came along with the opening of the canal, and the emerging socialities they created in the oceans and along coasts.
We know that living and dead matters have long affected human worlds. Historians and anthropologists of climate change have shown how the nonhuman forces of Earth and water have affected human and nonhuman worlds. With a particular eye on the Suez Canal’s impact on maritime transformations, global shipping routes, organic and nonorganic mobilities, this panel aims to flesh out human and non-human ecologies and afterlives along Red Sea and Mediterranean coastlines.
Maritime history and ethnographies have created novel frameworks, underscoring human movements, channels, and blockages that cannot easily be ascribed to a situated place, nation, culture, or even region (Driessen 2006). A range of historical work has highlighted the region’s oceanic ties and fashioning through seafaring cultures (Ho 2004; Ben-Yehoyada 2017, Dua 2019). We draw on archival research, ethnographic fieldwork and other material accessible in the wake of Covid-19, and ask:
• If we begin from oceans, coasts and ports, how does the terrain we usually refer to as the Middle East look?
• What are the horizons in human and other-than-human maritime mobilities propelled by the creation of the Suez Canal and how do they resonate regional histories and contemporary communities in the Middle East?
• How do rich maritime regional traditions – textual and empirical – open up geographies between human and other-than-humans along the waters and coasts of the Middle East?
• How does taking maritime other-than-humans as social actors impact our approaches to research in the Middle East?
• How do we write ethnographies of life forms entanglements in the Middle East?
• And how can anthropology and historians contribute in shaping attitudes and habits that will sustain and create conditions for livability in the salt waters of the region?

All in all, the panel seeks to explore oceanic and seafaring socialities and more-than-human cultures in waters of the Middle East enabled by the Suez Canal and the merging of two distant seas. 150 years on, these seafarers have created new socialities and afterlives call for systematic investigation.


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Beth Baron

(The City College and Graduate Center, CUNY)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Mandana E. Limbert

(City University of New York)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

On Barak

(Tel Aviv University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Nefissa Naguib

(University of Oslo)
Professor, Department of Social Anthropology University of Oslo Norway
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Lucia Carminati

(Texas Tech University)
I am Assistant Professor in Modern Middle East History at the History department of Texas Tech University. I am currently working on a book manuscript provisionally titled "Seeking Bread and Fortune in Port Said, 1859-1906: Migration and the Making of...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Karin Ahlberg

(Stockholm University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Samuli Lahteenaho

(University of Helsinki)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;