Sea & Society in Anthropology | American University of Beirut
Undergraduate course taught by Dr. Nikolas Kosmatopoulos in cooperation with the American University of Beirut Neighborhood Initiative
Although the blue continent sheaths our Earth, for the sciences that study culture and society it has been a scholarly no-man’s-land; a vast and void framing of terrestrial maps in the classroom. While the sea is essential to the emergence of world trade, colonialism, slavery, modernity, capitalism, and science, it is routinely compartmentalized under subtopics, such as trade, tourism, migration and security. The maritime world seems to fall between our epistemological cracks.
Conversations about the sea have changed within scholarly circles in recent years, mainly due to the phenomena of globalization and global warming. Historians view the sea mostly as a highway for intercontinental exchange and cultural diffusion. Researchers of geo-politics approach it as a space of maritime conflicts between states and corporations. Literary, cultural and feminist studies explore the maritime imagination in fiction, film, and emancipatory politics. Anthropologists discover the true otherness of our land-locked sovereignties and the decentering of human dominance over other species. Activists in Beirut, Hamburg, Lesvos, Sicily and Gaza take to the sea to protest and contest the securitization of the flow of people on the run, the privatization of the seaside, and an environmentally suicidal maritime extractionism.
This course promotes a sea-centered, theory-based and practice-oriented anthropological project. A slowly but surely emergent maritime social science makes refreshing waves of research and action. In the course we will navigate the seas in their movement from the margins to the center of academic inquiry and public imagination. In cooperation with AUB Neighborhood Initiative, students explore community-centered projects, excursions and lectures related to the coastal development of Beirut, the Dalieh port, the fishermen of Ain Mreisseh and the sea beyond the American University of Beirut.