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You might be wondering why I envisioned this writing as maritime navigation. Let me start by saying that first, the sea is the location I write from. I find myself in the south of Italy, in a house that is not my home but surely feels like it. Its walls are somehow falling apart, yet proved fundamental in helping me put these words together.

 

The house offers a breathtaking view but no Wi-Fi or data connection. For this reason, among others, I often leave it to study by the sea. ‘Study’ is a term you will repeatedly encounter in this writing. Any time I use it, I interpret it as Stefano Harney and Fred Moten (2013) do in The Undercommons: “What you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around [...], working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three” (p.110). 

While studying by the sea, I have been thinking, reading, writing, talking, listening, relating, learning, sensing, feeling, connecting, crying, wondering, and wandering. The convergence of all these activities, whose “incessant and irreversible intellectuality [...] is already present” (Harney and Moten, 2013, p.110) without the necessity to declare it, contributed to the making of this writing as is.

As Harney and Moten (2013) propose, acknowledging that the activities we carry out when we study always already constitute a kind of common intellectual practice allows us to access “a whole, varied, history of thought” (p.110). Accordingly, acknowledging that the activities I carried out while studying by the sea inherently counted as intellectual practices allowed me to envision this story in a whole different way. Namely, it encouraged me to break the frontier of what generally counts as intellectual work to discover what awaited me, us, beyond it.

Secondly, the sea has also been a thinking companion. In both form and content, it influenced my study as well as how the latter materialised into this writing. It showed me how, as feminist killjoy Sara Ahmed (2006) writes, “what we think from is an orientation device” (p.4), leading me to explore courses that would not have been foreseeable had I not been writing from this specific location. A location where every day the blue vastness of the sea moves right before my eyes, and below the countless ships crossing it. Moreover, once this ship reached the open seas, it was the same blue vastness which reminded me that the only (guide)lines I was left with to orient myself in this writing were those observable from it. The water, the sky, and the line in between: the horizon.

The sea also oriented me to find my voice. In particular, where I write from, two winds affect the sea, how it sounds and flows. They also influenced my voice in this writing, how it sounds and flows. At times, a voice full of grace, other times full of rage. Respectively, these two winds are Tramontana and Scirocco.

Blowing from the North, Tramontana feels like a warm whisper. A caress from a loved one. Its passage brings out the poetic in all it touches. Its warmth invites the body and heart to open to others and dive deep and wide into ourselves. Possibly, until we hear the sound of a transformation so profound that it reaches the primordial fabric of our existence in and of the world. The kind of transformation we experience when we create new DNA for this world, a fundamental concept to our navigation. 

Blowing from the South-West, Scirocco feels like screaming anger. It is humid and wets the eyes; it carries grains of sand, feels rough on the skin, and makes breathing harder. Its restlessness is revolting; never settles down. Scirocco refuses to be tamed and reminds us of how hard it is to “breathe in unbreathable circumstances [which] is what we do every day in the chokehold of racial gendered ableist capitalism” (Gumbs, 2021, no pagination). Scirocco is haunting, like the death of innocent others, human and more-than-human, in our murderous world. 

By listening to both winds, I have come to a realisation. As Black writer, facilitator, and pleasure activist adrienne maree brown (2021) claims, “if you listen to the natural world, you will inevitably find your place in movements for social and environmental justice” (no pagination). And the contrary might also be true, as I believe to have found my place in such movements and cared to find a place for the natural world (namely, the Mediterranean sea, Tramontana, and Scirocco) in this writing.

 

In her book Emergent strategy: Shaping change, changing worlds, brown focuses on how we can attend to being part of the living world, learn from the natural world, and get in the right relationship with change. I think that by studying from and with the Mediterranean sea and listening to the two winds affecting its sound and flow, I have found my way to partner with change in this writing. Resultingly, change not only is what this writing is about but also what this writing is oriented to.

Thirdly, this maritime journey is a feminist journey, and feminist journeys have often been associated with the force of water. Seas, oceans, tides, waves, rivers: you name it. For instance, I think of the so-called wave model used to illustrate the history of feminism in the United States and other contexts. Consisting of four waves and not immune to critique from numerous feminist and queer authors (Hewitt, 2010; Laughlin, K. A. et al., 2010; McBean, 2015), the model works as a metaphor where each wave represents a different period of intense activity with a distinct agenda. 

I also think of the feminist motto siamo marea [we are tide], often used in feminist spaces and protest signs in Italy (Repubblica, 2017). Carrying a particular sense of home for our ciurma and me who have somehow made a home at sea, this motto is often pronounced by the members who are particularly fond of hydro feminism. Developed by posthuman feminist Astrida Neimanis (2017), hydro feminism advocates for solidarity across watery bodies, where water is comprehended as “a gestational milieu that connects us all” (p.147). Accordingly, hydro feminism may constitute another example of how the movement of water continues to inspire feminist liberation movements. 

I also think of the breath(taking) work of Black feminist author, poet, and activist Alexis Gumbs (2020), who wrote a “different kind of guidebook for our movements and our whole species based on the subversive and transformative guidance of marine mammals” (no pagination). In Undrowned: Black feminist lessons from marine mammals, Gumbs (2020) claims that “those who survived in the underbellies of boats, under each other under unbreathable circumstances are the undrowned, and their breathing is not separate from the drowning of their kin and fellow captives, their breathing is not separate from the breathing of the ocean, their breathing is not separate from the sharp exhale of hunted whales, their kindred also” (no pagination). 

I think of brown’s book, which I mentioned earlier and explores how to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for by listening to the natural world and entering into the right relationship with change. Here, brown writes the word “water” sixty-one times. In one of them, brown (2017) quotes Black writer Desiree Evans, who reflects on water lessons and remarks that in building our liberation movements, we come from different places, but just like rivers and streams, we may make our way back to the source and flow toward the same goal: the collective vision of the sea.

 

In particular, Evans suggests that those of us who share a collective vision can find each other, learn to move, build, shape the world, and flow together, and maybe together reach the sea. Just like our ciurma and I did in the workshop space, as we reached the open seas and started navigating waters of transformation. Something we are now doing on this ship too! 

These reflections are important, as they allow me to flash out the questions I aim to address in our journey: What happens when we are at sea? How do we navigate personal and political, individual and collective transformation, especially in places such as the workshop space, a heterotopic site existing between worlds? What do such places look and feel like? And when we encounter each other there and find transformation, how do we take space from the neoliberal capitalist, hetero-patriarchal, white supremacist, colonial, and anthropocentric world to make the next worlds our place? 

To address these questions, I find myself wrestling first and foremost with issues of space. The space I write about is always already multiple spaces, as no space exists in isolation; rather it exists in an always already entangled, globalised, hyperconnected, interconnected, and watery world.

 

Specifically, the spaces I write about include:

 

The space of this writing and TSI both envisioned in the figuration of a ship navigating in open seas.

 

The space of my body, where this writing originates.

 

The space of the Mediterranean sea, where my body studies.

 

The space of the academy, which this writing represents, opposes, and inverts by refusing certain hegemonic academic conventions.

 

The space of the neoliberal capitalist, hetero-patriarchal, white supremacist, colonial, and anthropocentric world, which TSI represents, opposes, and inverts.

 

Finally, the space of the next worlds, the social and environmentally just worlds we long to live in and struggle for.

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