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(Un)seen Seas

Technological Mediation, Oceanic Imaginaries, and Future Depths

Stephanie Ratté

Remote technologies and digitally mediated representations now serve as a central mode of interaction with hard-to-reach sea spaces and places. This article reviews the literature on varied scholarly engagements with the sea and on the oceanic application of technologies—among them geographic information systems, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles—that allow people to envision and engage with deep and distant oceanic spaces. I focus on the extension of a digital and disembodied human presence in the oceans and the persistence of frontier fictions, in which the sea figures as a site of future-oriented possibilities. Finally, I ask what the emphasis on “seeing” through technological mediation means for how we imagine vast spaces, and consider how these elements of the oceanic imaginary can be productively complicated by drawing attention to the materiality of the oceans and the scalar politics of dynamic spaces.

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Consensus for Whom?

Gaming the Market for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna through the Empire of Bureaucracy

Jennifer E. Telesca

This article takes an inside look at ocean governance and asks what is so good about consensus as the dominant mode of decision making in international law. As an accredited observer of the treaty body known as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), I draw upon three years of ethnographic research to document how global elites in closed-door meetings decided the fate of the planet's most valuable fish – bluefin tuna – now depleted. I probe the diplomatic vernacular of a 'game' to unpack how bureaucratic work got done, most poignantly among rich and rogue delegations. At stake was not only money in glamour fish but also status. Implicated, too, is the 'empire of bureaucracy', or the power of a supranational regulatory regime to fix, manage and reproduce inequalities, even if unknowingly, for the postcolonial organization of world affairs.

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Amanda Bonnick, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh and Theophilus Kwek

High Seas, by Amanda Bonnick

My Life Is a Shadow of a Faraway Incident, by Fakhry Ratrout. Translated by Yousif M. Qasmiyeh and Theophilus Kwek

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Caroline Humphrey

The article discusses Soviet sailors' experiences away from home and seaborne social relations—the particular sociality brought to the Black Sea region by ships and sailors. The officers and sailors employed by the Black Sea Fleet had much wider horizons than ordinary Soviet citizens—and the small temporary society of the ship interpenetrated with the varied Black Sea inhabitants in limited but significant ways. They contrasted “high seas” of the world's great oceans, the setting for dangerous, daring and profitable exploits, with the enclosed drudgery of the Black Sea routes. The article shows how the Cold War inflected the imaginaries and practices of seamen and others. It argues that an anthropology of the sea can develop an analysis that combines regional specificities with visions that extend beyond the local and national.

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Sea Voyage Tales in Conversation with the Jonah Story

Intertextuality and the Art of Narrative Bricolage

Reuven Kiperwasser and Serge Ruzer

The article examines rabbinic and Christian, Syriac and Greek, narratives of miraculous rescue on a storm-tossed sea from a comparative perspective. Taking note of the narrators’ engagement in an ongoing intertextual dialogue with the biblical story of prophet Jonah, the authors highlight the new emphases introduced by late antique storytellers. The function of the adventures on the high seas as a means of establishing the protagonists’ religious identity and, consequently, strengthening the identity of the projected audience is shown to be shared by Jewish and Christian sources. Moreover, the article investigates the role assigned to the Other in Jewish and Christian travel fiction. The results may point to different attitudes toward the Other entrenched in the two cultures.