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Two Premature Rumors of the Mediterraneans Death: Fishing Wars, Maritime Gentrification, and Social Anthropology of Region Formation in the Channel of Sicily Since WWII

A lecture by Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Harvard University

Since the 1950s, Tunisia and Sicily became gradually intertwined in an ever-intensifying network of connections—licit and illicit, cooperative and belligerent— with the Tunisian and Libyan shores. At the center of this network emerged the fishing fleet of Mazara del Vallo—once a small viticulture town and Italy’s largest post-WWII fishing port. As the fleet and its illegal fishing in Tunisian territorial waters expanded, the town and its fleet transformed into a node in a maritime constellation that included “the war of the fish,” drug and arms trafficking, post-colonial political interests, and clandestine migration. Through a historical anthropology of region, class, and subject formation, I revisit the current state of historiography and anthropology about the Mediterranean and offer a way to combine these disciplines’ tools in order to illustrates how the sea has been recreated and conjured through the interaction between cross-boundary practices and official region-making projects. Naor Ben-Yehoyada is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University [defending my dissertation on March 22, and graduating on May 26]. The title of his dissertation is: Mediterranean, Becoming and Unbecoming: Fishing, Smuggling, and region Formation between Sicily and Tunisia since World War II, under the direction of Professor Michael Herzfeld. He received my MA in Sociology and Anthropology from Tel Aviv University in 2005. The title of his thesis was: The Men who Knew Too Much: Jaffa Fishermen and the Zionist Project, 1936-2004.

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