Humanity at sea: hybridity and seafaring 
Nicolas Argenti (Brunel University)
Chryssanthi Papadopoulou (British School at Athens)
Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 3
Start time:
20 June, 2014 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

Fusing nature with human nature, boats are hybrid places. This session addresses the human need and potential to create and adjust to such composite environments. It views mariners as hybrid humans, and examines the impact of seafaring on their perception, corporeality and sociocultural identity.

Long Abstract:

Because boats bind 'the state of nature' with human nature and intent, Foucault has characterised them as heterotopias; places without firm ground "given over to the infinity of the sea". Michel Serres has called them "hamlets in a fragile shell": human microcosms adrift in a barren wilderness.

Such hybrid places redefine human nature. Boats can only be populated by hybrid humans: biologically adapted to the marine environment, incorporated in the micro-society of the boat, yet simultaneous bearers of the biological and sociocultural norms and conditions of their home-land environments. Boats have their own rules of engagement with their inhabitants: they induce a floating sense of emplacement, a nomadic sense of belonging, which leave a permanent imprint on the mariners' memories, perception and identity. Simultaneously, boats affect mariners' corporeality.

This session aims to examine the impact of the hybrid place of the boat and/or seafaring on humans. Some of the questions it might address include: How does seafaring become enculturated by maritime peoples? In what ways does life at sea affect people's sense of emplacement and identity in the age of nation-states? To what extent does the sea affect human biology and idiosyncrasy? How do memories and discourses of the sea and maritime activities enter into other fields of thought and culture? What are the contrasts between the social formations particular to 'floating hearths' and those restricted to land? How do mariners negotiate the boundaries between these socio-natural spheres?

Accepted papers: