Traveling Seas Far & Wide
The Floating Laboratory of Action & Theory At Sea (FLOATS) is an experimental platform dedicated to teaching, research, public engagements and awareness about the social sciences of the sea. One of our main objectives is to offer a continuous critical commentary on the perils of our dominant territorial frameworks. We take seriously the idea of “floating,” whether in terms of the state of contemporary forms of mobility and rootlessness that the space of the sea offers or as a means of fostering a series of "floating conversations" over the many pressing past and present challenges as well as creative opportunities of seas and shorelines. Bringing together academics, artists, activists and others, FLOATS will rotate serially through the seas, stopping at several key port-cities and sites along the way to host a series of open meetings and public events.
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement is a Palestinian-led movement for justice, equality, and freedom. It works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians, upholding a simple & clear principle: Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as everyone else.
FLOATS meetings are conducted under BDS principles, i.e. there can be no cooperation with Israeli institutions, only with individuals within Palestine/Israel. If individual participants hold Israeli citizenship, they can participate but they cannot endorse the citizenship, at least not publicly (Lebanese citizens and workers in Lebanon are by state law forbidden to participate in projects with Israeli citizens. FLOATS is administered by the American University Beirut, which is subject to the same laws).
Keeping our ship Afloat
Nikolas Kosmatopoulos | Navigator
I came up with the idea of FLOATS through an inverted eureka moment, in which a careless swim almost brought my entire ontological subjectivity to an abrupt, banal and finite elimination; at sea, so flowed the instantaneous anti-Archimedean revelation, one can perish through sheer inaction. I came to the realization that floating was not a natural condition or an objective fact; Archimedes was wrong. Ever since then, things were crystal clear: floating embodies the art of not being sinkable despite reactionary countercurrents, and this is mostly possible through recovering from the bottom of the sea memories, theories, and stories of pain, pleasure and power that upset the ephemeral truths so firmly rooted on land.
Marwa ElShakry | Stargazer
One of my earliest memories is of the sea: splashing through the shore, diving through the watery depths to anchor my hands through the sandy bottoms until all the air finally escapes my lungs. I still dive into the sea that way. If "the unconscious is like an ocean," and if childhood is where the unconscious first takes form, then this memory no doubt occupies a vast scape of my mind. A gambler's ticket to freedom or a place of unknown deep terrors, the sea has fascinated countless generations. In our times, this last vast public commons is now under threat: an increasingly policed space, a liquid refugee cemetery, a site of toxic waste, and the terrain where we will no doubt first feel the full force of our own blatant environmental destruction. We might therefore even consider these seas to be our own unacknowledged collective unconscious, rife with the forces of our own collective repressions and oppressions and which, if freed, can bring about a startling transformation. Together with like-minded spirits, artists, academics, activists and futurists, I joined FLOATS to help begin this collective re-membering and com-memoration of the oceans of life around us.
Myriam Claire Baker | Quartermaster
Amidst all chaos permeating all aspects of our lives, and especially our psyches, I’ve come to realize the importance of envisioning or maybe even finding an escape, a place, or a state of mind unscathed by modern capitalist culture and logic. Floating is palliative, and with that, the sea becomes a refuge. Yet, parallel to our suffering is that of the sea. I see FLOATS as an opportunity to revivify the sea in public sphere discourse, reclaim it as both a symbolic and a real alternative to, and resistance against, current governing systems of oppression. I’m a candidate for an MA in Clinical Psychology and the administrative coordinator at FLOATS.
Reem Joudi | former Radio Operator
My fascination with the sea is partly symptomatic of living near bodies of water her entire life. Now in Beirut, I witness the sea held hostage by growing political endeavours & privatization efforts, slowly altering socioeconomic and ecological conditions in Lebanon and the surrounding region. Thus, floating becomes a utopian exercise; a mental and physical state of being that thinks through the sea as an alternative and sustainable space for the future, upon which narratives and imaginaries of liberation can be drawn. A candidate for an MA in Media Studies, I am responsible for digital communications; a testament to the ever-shifting, but always present, media roles on board all ships.
Panos Kostouros | Chronicler
I feel very privileged to be part of a global and highly talented team that focuses on capturing and spreading such an essential facet of truth at this moment of history. FLOATS is worth of an attentive and caring treatment. It is a formidable initiative and its historic, political and scientific significant value should be broadly communicated. Our aim is to convey the seed and development of an open conversation between Academics and people who wish to explore the Sea's Past while realistically anticipating a hopeful future. We can all imagine the Sea as Utopia and what I personally find vital is the ability to collectively share this fantasy. If, for whatever reason, you cannot attend the two meeting points of Lesvos and NY, I promise you to record and present in the most eloquent way possible all the great ideas shared.
Michael Huijer | Radio Operator
Michael is an advisor on strategic communications and education. Previously, he was the Communications Manager at AUB’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs from 2013 to 2018. Michael, a Dutch-Lebanese-American, has an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a BA in Mass Communications. He has worked in several capacities for a variety of organizations, including Chatham House, the Carnegie Middle East Center, International Alert, the Netherlands Institute in Beirut, and the American University of Beirut.
Aaron Fedor | Chronicler
Aaron Fedor is a filmmaker, DP and photographer and also a licensed drone operator. I was born in Mexico, raised in the United States and England and I am now based in New York City. I have a BA in film from Virginia Commonwealth University. My work has taken me all over the world and often reflects a passion for the environment and a sustainable future for our planet. Recently my work has appeared in the New York Times and the BBC and various other outlets. His website is: www.Fedorahat.com
Marwa Elshakry is an Associate Professor, and teaches on a broad range of subjects in the history of science, technology, and medicine and modern Arabic intellectual history. Her first book, entitled, Reading Darwin in Arabic was published in 2013 with the University of Chicago Press. Among her other publications are: “Translation” in Blackwell Companion to the History of Science (Wiley Press, 2016); “Islam” in Michael Saler, ed., The Fin-de-Siècle World (Routledge, 2014; Elshakry and Sujit Sivasundaram, eds., Science, Race and Imperialism [Victorian Literature and Science series: vol. 6], (Pickering and Chatto, 2012); and ‘When Science became Western: historiographical reflections’, Isis, 101:1 (March 2010), 98-109. She is currently working on the idea of golden ages, universal histories and the history of science and orientalism from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. She received her M.A. (1997) and Ph.D. (2003) from Princeton. Marwa is co-navigator of FLOATS.
Nikolas Kosmatopoulos is an Assistant Professor at the Departments of Political Studies and Public Administration & Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies at the American University of Beirut. His research interests include the expert politics of war and peace in the Middle East, and more recently the solidarity politics of the sea in the Mediterranean. He received his Ph.D. from Universität Zürich. Nikolas is co-navigator of FLOATS.
Georgios Kallis, is an ICREA Research Professor at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). He is an environmental scientist working on ecological economics and political ecology. Before coming to Barcelona, he was a Marie Curie International Fellow at the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California at Berkeley. Giorgos holds a PhD in Environmental Policy and Planning from the University of the Aegean in Greece, a Masters in Economics from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and a Masters in Environmental Engineering and a Bachelors in Chemistry from Imperial College, London.
Elisa Kim is an Assistant Professor of Art at Smith College. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in energy and environmental policy from Boston University and a Master of architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. Kim's research combines methodologies from environmental policy with architectural drawing and representation to engage a wide set of concerns about the environment, borders and boundaries. Her current oceanic mappings question the agency of the line and the illusion of the fixity of the map as an outlined artifact delineating cultural, political and social bodies from one another.
Kevin St Martin is as Associate Professor at Rutgers University. He is a human geographer whose work is at the intersection of economic geography, political ecology, and critical applications of GIScience. His research concerns the development and institutionalization of economic and environmental discourse. It emerges from a strong background in both social theory and spatial analysis, and it has been clearly and consistently linked to issues of environmental policy. While at Rutgers, he has worked on several well-funded research projects that have in common the regulation and transformation of the marine environment.
Venetia Kantsa is an Associate Professor at the University of the Aegean. She was born in Thessaloniki in 1966. She studied philosophy at the University of Ioannina (1987), social anthropology at the University of the Aegean (1995), and holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London (2001). Her research interests focus on anthropology of kinship, anthropology of gender and sexuality, queer theory, anthropology of science, and Greek ethnography. She has conducted extensive fieldwork on women’s same-sex sexuality in Greece, the visibility of same-sex desires, same-sex families, motherhood and new forms of parenthood, the summer lesbian community in Eresos and the history of the lesbian movement.