CONFERENCE: Revisiting (North-African) History Through a Maritime Lens (Abstract)

Daniela Melfa

University of Catania

Thalassa/ Thalassa! was the enthusiastic cry of Cyrus’ Greek mercenaries when they glimpsed the Black Sea in their retreat in Anatolia. In the episode related by Xenophon, the sea featured as a safe way-out or a lifeline. However, if winds of hopeful change may blow from the sea, it is also true that dangers may loom on the maritime horizon. For instance, pirates (or privateers) and colonial armies attacked the mainland from the coast. I would like to approach the thalasso-centred paradigm assuming such a complexity and developing it in a historical perspective. The first step will focus on Utopias at sea through the lens of the mainstream statist utopia (Chatterji, 1993, p. 160) that, in the aftermath of independence, pointed to the state as the basic vector for achieving full liberation. Briefly, opposition to neo-colonial encroachments was supposed to pass through a land/nation-centred perspective. Second, I would like to examine the potential of a sea-centred outlook for historical studies. By drawing on my expertise on contemporary Tunisia, I shall investigate some metaphoric keywords linked to the aquatic world – such as movement, wave, permeability, current, ebb and flow, etc. – in order to asses their positive impact on research.