chapter  9
29 Pages

Bare Life at Sea (the Leper and the Plague)

WithMegan C. MacDonald

This essay examines the complex entanglements of disease and “bare life” at sea. While there have been many studies of the racialization of biopolitics on slave ships, for instance, this chapter seeks to extend the lessons of such critique into the conceptualization of other violent crossings and dehumanized subjectivation. It attends, in particular, to forms of life at sea through the figures and figuration of the North African stowaway and refugee. It highlights renewed tension in the determinations of “legitimate” movement, and how bios is riven with racialized fear of “contamination” and subvention. By examining a contemporary example of how crisis puts people to sea, (including dour exigencies of life and death, the “Mediterranean cemetery”), it rethinks what might constitute the parameters of an archive (“at sea”) and questions the almost literal “compartmentalization” of such narrative.