The Mediterranean trawler, or the world upside-down
Naor Ben-Yehoyada (Columbia University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper uses Aristotelian poetics to connect the drama onboard a motorized trawler in the Channel of Sicily and the outside world. It shows how onboard space and unfolding social relations become a key and an emblem for processes that lie beyond the ship, and in which it participates.
Paper long abstract:
This paper uses Aristotelian poetics to connect onboard drama and the outside world. Following Greg Dening's treatment of the mutiny on the HMS Bounty, I describe how the space onboard a motorized trawler in the Channel of Sicily, as well as the authority it displays and relationships it encloses, becomes both a key and an emblem for processes that lie beyond them, and in which they participate. Mazara del Vallo, a fishing town at the southwestern tip of Sicily, 90 miles northeast of the tip of the Tunisian shore, boasts millennia of connections to and tensions with the other side of the Channel of Sicily. In their endless fishing voyages, the Sicilian and Tunisian fishers of Mazara personify both the reemerging Mediterranean imaginary that their fleet's expansion has conditioned since WWII and the current decrepit, diseased, disillusioned, and internally torn shape their craft has taken. The stark contrast between nostalgic tales of joint catches, gains, and exploits, and the stagnant, tense-ridden, and trying present, reveals the consuming effects that the fleet's mode of operation has had on people, relations, and the sea. Both in the daily on-board routine, which Tunisians and Sicilians call "slavery," and in their versions of what being Mediterranean seafarers entails nowadays, they offer a complex perspective—moving both temporally and spatially—on the vicissitudes and tolls of the sea's reemergence.
Humanity at sea: hybridity and seafaring