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The Underworlds Series: The Vessel as Site of Global Dis/Ordering

When: Wednesday, June 19, 2024, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Where: Online

School of Law, Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context, and LSE Law School logoAs part of the Underworlds series, this event focuses on vessels as sites of global dis/ordering.

The event will reflect on the patterns and images of global dis/ordering that thinking through the multiple meanings, colonial histories, and afterlives of the ‘vessel’ reveals. The ‘vessel’ can be seen in multiple ways – from the physical materiality of migrant vessels and the violence inflicted upon those, to different notions of the ‘vessel’ in a more symbolic sense: as a shell, a container, a body. These multiple meanings and movements, these embodied urgencies and interrupted crossings, allow us to trace the vicious composition of territorial legal orders and their borderzones. They provide a perspective on the material historical conditions that shaped the legal constitution of the anti-Black world – the harmful production and prohibition of passage. Yet, in its multiplicity, the ‘vessel’ is also a vehicle for counter-movements and strategies designed to unsettle and reconfigure these sovereign schemes – a possibility of floating sanctuaries. Attentive to these cracks and unplanned openings – what could a vessel be? – we aim to explore the politics of refusal, of un-doing, of de-worlding that thinking with and through the ‘vessel’ can generate.

The speakers

Rinaldo Walcott is Professor and Chair in the Department of Africana and American Studies at the University of Buffalo; there he is also the Carl V. Granger Chair in Africana and American Studies. Rinaldo’s research focuses on the cultural expression of Black life with an interest in the transnational, diasporic and the national crosscurrents of Black creativities. Rinaldo is the author of number of single authored, co-authored, and co-edited books. His more recent work is The Long Emancipation: Moving Toward Black Freedom (Duke, 2021) and On Property: Policing, Prisons, and the Call for Abolition (Biblioasis, 2021) which was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award in 2021. Currently Rinaldo is working on two monographs, one on freedom and the sea, and another on Black queer expressive culture. A third work seeks to grapple with the possibilities of achieving utopia from the grips of the catastrophe that threatens to consume all of planetary life. Rinaldo was born in Barbados. He divides his time between the city of Buffalo and the city of Toronto.

Itamar Mann is an Associate Professor at the University of Haifa, Faculty of Law, where he teaches and does research in the areas of public international law, political theory, human rights, migration and refugee law, and environmental law. Before moving to Haifa, Mann was a fellow at Georgetown Law Center, Washington DC. He holds an LLB (Tel Aviv University), LLM, and JSD degrees (Yale Law School). Itamar has published in leading journals and edited volumes, and his monograph, Humanity at Sea: Maritime Migration and the Foundations of International Law, came out with Cambridge University Press in 2016. Alongside his academic work, he is also an active human rights lawyer. He has advised organizations on issues related to human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and is the president of Border Forensics. Itamar’s recent scholarship has focused on law and oceans and seas. In particular, he has written about rescue vessels, both seaborne and airborne, as well as a recent project on how Greece has employed rescue equipment in a cruel practice of abandoning asylum seekers at sea.

Event Resources

Abed Abdi, Drowning in the Mediterranean, Acrylic on Canvas, 2021

The Series: Underworlds – Sites and Struggles of Global Dis/Ordering

Engagement with practices of global ordering is often guided towards specific locations and legacies: the sovereign state, the formal sources and standards of international law, the intricacies of global diplomacy, the historical juncture and its (anti-)heroes, the international palaces of hope in Geneva, New York, or The Hague. These explorations entail ideas of where power resides and where it is to be unmasked or undone – ideas implicitly grounded in modernist geographies, temporalities, and subjectivities. Starting from the limits of these familiar perspectives, this lecture and workshop series traces the multiple ways in which these sites, actors, and events are cabined, crossed, and cut apart by alternative material arteries, lineages, and languages of global dis/ordering.

The series takes as starting point that authority and order are not fixed properties of specific actors or institutions, but the result of ongoing material processes of ordering and world-making. As such, it traces unconventional forms and sites of global dis/ordering – from raw materials to projections of hope – as material, infrastructural, and discursive compositions that shape patterns of power. The encounter between old- and new materialist, Marxist and decolonial methodologies and modes of critique is one of the key objectives of this series. Its aim, however, is not only methodological: it aspires to inspire new ethical and political openings that attend to our inevitable complicity in taking part in these processes, and reveal new modes of resistance and refusal, of struggle and sociality. These interventions are not narrowly targeted at the old nemeses of critique – the state, the truth, the universal – but work from within both entrenched and emergent material sites and practices of dis/ordering: oceans, oil / coal, breath, debt, commons, frontier(s), waste, hope, wild / feral, vessels.

Find out about all events in the series.

The series is convened by Marie Petersmann and Dimitri Van Den Meerssche and co-organised by QMUL (the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences and the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context) and the LSE Law School.

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