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Only after I had started imagining this writing as a ship navigating open seas, I came to learn that Foucault (1984) described the ship as the heterotopia par excellance, for “[i]n civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates” (p.8). For Foucault (1984), heterotopias are “absolutely different from all the sites they reflect and speak about”, and exist as “counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted” (p.4). In particular, “places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality” (Foucault, 1984, p.4). 

Foucault (1984) also described the ship as “the greatest reserve of the imagination” and “a place without a place [...] given over to the infinity of the sea” (p.8). In many ways, I believe that the ship as a topos was not only given to the infinity of sea but also to that of time. I think of instances of sea crossing that travelled through time and reached more or less distant points in history. Staying in Mediterranean waters, I could mention the Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem and a sea crossing story still widely read by contemporary audiences in and beyond Europe. Other than a tale my father used to narrate when I was a child, recently, one hundred and eight critics, scholars, and journalists from thirty-eight different countries voted it first out of one hundred stories that shaped the world in a poll launched by BBC Culture (Haynes, 2018).

Yet, not all instances of sea crossing pertain to the realm of literature. I think of histories of sea crossing that started in the past and continue to this day. Namely, colonialism, conquest, slavery and their contemporary legacies, including but not limited to violence, conflict, war, genocide, dispossession, extraction, poverty, forced migration, extinction of more-than-human species, destruction of natural environments and, by extension, climate change. Foucault (1984) accounted for such ambivalence by describing the ship not only as “the greatest reserve of the imagination” but also as “the great instrument of economic development” (p.8). Then, we may look at the histories of sea crossing mentioned above as the result of the economic development that Foucault writes about. 

In some instances, like in the quest for the New World, the greatest reserve of the imagination and the great instrument of economic development proved nothing but two sides of the same ship: a violent venture. As I do not want this to happen in our journey, my feminist ethics calls me to interrogate my relation to this ship as the person who figuratively assembled it, and account for the inherent embeddedness, co-constituency, and complicity of this ship in what it may oppose (Haraway, 1988). At the same time, my feminist ethics calls me to question the relation of this ship to this world, necessarily mediated by my relation to this world. In other words, by my positionality.

A moment ago, we learned that the ship is simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination and a great instrument for economic development. Crossing Mediterranean waters, this ship may epitomise such ambivalence too. On the one hand, the Mediterranean is the sea where my cis able body, born into white, European, and socio-economic privileges, has been studying and finding inspiration for this writing. In my experience, given my positionality, Mediterranean waters have sourced my imagination with this ship, which I have also referred to as a rescue ship. A ship for care and healing, remember? 

On the other hand, the Mediterranean is also a graveyard of bodies assembled as less privileged than mine in the neoliberal capitalist, hetero-patriarchal, white supremacist, colonial, and anthropocentric systems that make the world as is. Non-white bodies that white supremacy constructed as racialised others to keep at a distance and whose otherness has been framed by the white dominator culture as dangerous for personal safety and national security. I am talking about migrants and refugees pulled to the land I write from, risking it all by crossing for a better life, often meaning a life without “violence, conflict, or persecution” (Missing Migrants, 2023). Contrarily to my experience, Mediterranean waters have often not sourced rescue ships for them, resulting in more than twenty-seven thousand dead and missing in the last ten years alone (Missing Migrants, 2023).

While writing, on June 13, a shipwreck now apprised to be “one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean in recent years” (Henley and Smith, 2023) caused eighty-one dead and hundreds of missing bodies off the coasts of Pylos, Greece. As it appears that Greek authorities had been alerted hours before the boat capsized, allegations were made that Greek coast guard officials “deliberately failed to intervene for fear that such a large group of migrants were being brought ashore” (Henley and Smith, 2023). Specifically, Amnesty International researcher on migration Adriana Tidona remarked that the Pylos disaster was “a tragedy of unimaginable proportions, all the more so because it was entirely preventable” (Amnesty International, 2023). 

Even in this very instant, bodies pulled to crossing by dreams of a life might be drowning not too many miles from where I write. As I stare into the sea frontier on the horizon, I cannot help but think that the breath I am catching could also be their last. And now the breath you are catching could also be their last. I cannot help but think of the interlocking systems of oppression that secured my white, European, socio-economic privileges by seizing them from others, constructing strangeness as confinement, and using the latter as an instrument to either incarcerate strangeness within given borders or keep it out at all costs. First and foremost, the cost of othered lives. 

As I stare into the sea frontier, I also think of the numerous more-than-human species and environments already past or facing extinction in the Mediterranean. While studying by the sea, one day, I participated in an event raising awareness of sea turtles’ deadly condition, specifically how plastic waste figures among its causes. Organised by the Italian non-profit association Plastic Free, the event concluded with the release into the sea of four turtles who had been rescued, brought to a clinic, and cured of their critical conditions. On that occasion, I learned that loggerhead sea turtles, whose scientific name is caretta caretta, supposedly the most common species in the Mediterranean, are currently facing extinction due to incidental capture, habitat degradation, and climate change. They are but one among many species whose life has unnecessarily turned to suffering and death due to anthropic disturbance.

But what does anthropic mean? Anthropic comes from anthropos, which is Greek for human but does not refer to ‘human’ as a biological species nor to the notion of ‘human’ forged during the Enlightenment and perpetuated until the present day (Braidotti, 2013). As Braidotti (2013) proposes, anthropos refers to the era when certain humans, depending on location and access to power, became “a geological force capable of affecting all life on this planet” (p.5). The beginning of this era, often referred to as the Anthropocene, is believed to coincide with the advent of modern capitalism and its deadly consequences: from the “long-distance destruction of landscapes and ecologies” (Tsing, 2015, p.19) to the irreversible effects of climate change, which some go as far as to consider the sixth mass extinction (Cowie, Bouchet, and Fontaine, 2022). 

Despite my efforts toward living a more sustainable life and commitment to environmental justice, I reckon that my mere existence in the Global North contributes to the effects of anthropic doing. Co-constituted by the interlocking systems of oppression that make the world as is, my existence sustains theirs even if and when I do not support it. For example, being structured around neoliberal capitalist cycles of extraction, production, and consumption, navigating my everyday life negatively affects the planet.  Surely, it may do so in more or less impactful ways depending on my consumer choices, which under the neoliberal capitalist system are still, first and foremost, a question of socio-economic privilege and thus not equally available to all. 

As such, I am complicit in the world I oppose and this ship is too, given that the material and immaterial processes through which I assembled it are not separate from my existence in the neoliberal capitalist, hetero-patriarchal, white supremacist, colonial, and anthropocentric world. To flash out how this ship is complicit in the world it opposes, I resort to the implosion method, created by Donna Haraway and further developed by anthropologist Joseph Dumit. It consists of unpacking objects as a means to connect to world histories (Haraway, 2005) and specifically invites us to look at such objects as “made of imploded histories” (Dumit, 2014, p.349). While the histories behind a given object may be more or less evident depending on how information travels into the world and reaches us, they always already exist in the world and materialise as connections of such an object to the world. Retracing such histories or, as Dumit (2014) says, writing the(ir) implosion allows us to situate the given object in the world and, conversely, see how the world is always already situated in it. 

Shall we try to retrace some of the imploded histories behind this ship? I will start! I can think of the electric energy I have consumed to keep my laptop running while assembling this writing: Where does this energy travel from and to? Who accesses it, and who does not? How does it affect our already damaged planet? I think of the materials extracted in more or less ethical ways to create my laptop. Which land do they come from? Are there any struggles over land on the land they come from? Does extracting such materials harm the humans, more-than-humans, and natural environments living on such land? I can think of the more or less sustainable processes undergone to transform such materials into a final product and the workers hired and treated in more or less equitable ways to carry out such processes. I can think of where my laptop will travel when I dispose of it, the environments possibly affected by the hazard caused by its waste, and so on…

As I stare again into the sea frontier, I think of our radical interconnectedness in and with this world. I reckon that the Mediterranean is not distinct from other seas, oceans, rivers, lands, forests, humans and more-than-human subjects who, despite their differences, share with us the fragile precarity of life within a damaged planetary home. Braidotti (2013) proposes that although we are not one and the same, we still are all in this together, and together we must create “new concepts and navigational tools to help us through the complexities of the present” (no pagination). Despite its inherent embeddedness, co-constituency, and even complicity in what it may oppose, this ship aims at “charting new journeys” (hooks, 1994, p.66) and calls us to live “as though we are all interconnected - which we are” (Hedva, 2020b). It invites us to act accordingly, as we become aware that “the desire to get on with it” - it being life - “is the fragile yet irrepressible bond that connects” us all (Braidotti, 2013, no pagination).

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