In this intervention, Heller and Pezzani introduce the Forensic Oceanography project, which, since 2011, has critically investigated the militarised border regime in the Mediterranean Sea and developed new methods to document violations of migrants’ rights at sea. They argue that the policing of the EU’s maritime frontier generates a particular aesthetic regime—understood as what presents itself to sensory experience. Distinct conditions of (in)visibility and (in)audibility are imposed by states’ restrictive policies but are also shaped, transformed, and contested by multiple other actors, including migrants’ themselves. Through the example of their investigation into the ‘left-to-die boat’ case, they demonstrate that such an understanding is the condition to critically appropriate technologies usually used to police illegalised migrants and exercise a disobedient gaze. Ultimately, Heller and Pezzani show that to contest the violence of borders, one must also challenge the boundaries of what can be seen and heard.
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See the list of migrant deaths at the European borders established by UNITED for Intercultural Action: http://unitedagainstrefugeedeaths.eu/about-the-campaign/about-the-united-list-of-deaths/.
Here we draw on Sean Cubitt’s expanded understanding of mediation, which, beyond technologically mediated communication processes between humans, he defines as ‘the material processes connecting human and nonhuman events (…). Mediation is the primal connectivity shared by human and nonhuman worlds’ (Cubitt 2017, p. 3). The way in which, in another text, he talks about sunlight as that which ‘mediates the sun and the earth’ (Cubitt 2014) further points to the understanding of mediation that inspires us here.
For our reconstruction of these events, see our report: https://content.forensic-architecture.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/FO-report.pdf (Heller et al. 2012). Our video animation Liquid Traces summarises our findings: https://vimeo.com/128919244.
Cubitt, S. (2014, August 13). How to connect everyone with everything [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://seancubitt.blogspot.com/2014/08/how-to-connect-everyone-with-everything.html.
Cubitt, S. (2017). Finite media: Environmental implications of digital technologies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
De Genova, N. (2013). Spectacles of migrant ‘illegality’: The scene of exclusion, the obscene of inclusion. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(7), 1180–1198.
Heller, C., Pezzani, L., & Situ Research. (2012). Report on the left-to-die boat. London: Forensic Architecture. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from https://content.forensic-architecture.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/FO-report.pdf.
Keenan, T. (2014). Getting the dead to tell me what happened: Justice, prosopopoeia, and forensic afterlives. In Forensic Architecture (Ed.), Forensic: The architecture of public truth (pp. 35–55). Berlin, Germany: Sternberg Press.
PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe). (2012). Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: Who is responsible? PACE. Retrieved from http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2012/20120329_mig_RPT.EN.pdf
Rancière, J. (2004). The politics of aesthetics: The distribution of the sensible. London and New York, NY: Continuum.
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Heller, C., Pezzani, L. (2020). Intervention: Forensic Oceanography—Tracing Violence Within and Against the Mediterranean Frontier’s Aesthetic Regime. In: Adey, P., et al. The Handbook of Displacement. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47178-1_31
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-030-47177-4
Online ISBN: 978-3-030-47178-1