Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Navigating the Bab-el-mandeb: Risk and Opportunity in the Red Sea

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Silveroak I, Ground Floor

As locales that clog, constrict, and otherwise “choke” the flow of goods, bodies, and capital, maritime straits, such as the Bab-el-Mandeb, a key maritime chokepoint connecting the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, are sites of intense control and anxiety for policy planners, militaries, and global commerce. Yet, little is known about the daily forms of circulation and governance that occur at these places and the enmeshments of landscapes, histories, and legalities that facilitate both mobility and its interruption across this narrow strait. This project proposes an ethnographic investigation of navigation in order to understand how a chokepoint is constructed in daily practice as a simultaneous space of opportunity and risk. By moving between medieval Islamic treatises on navigation, contemporary technologies and infrastructures of mobility and interdiction and ethnographic encounters at ports and at sea, this project highlights the materiality of oceanic mobility, including the human and non-human energies and encounters that are central to processes of circulation and exchange. In doing so, this project shows how chokepoints are constructed and contested, as much as they are geographically and geo-politically self-evident. Forged through the interactions of translocal and local processes, the Bab-el-Mandeb helps us understand the formative imbrications between economy and governance and risk and opportunity in the contemporary world and geographies of interaction that move across the divides of Asia and Africa, legal and illegal, and onshore and offshore that remain central to concepts of polity and mobility. 

Jatin Dua

University of Michigan, United States

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1 - Navigating the Bab-el-mandeb: Risk and Opportunity in the Red Sea



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