The ocean has always been the harbinger of strangers to new shores. Migrations by sea have transformed modern conceptions of mobility and belonging, disrupting notions of how to write about movement, memory and displaced histories. Sea Log is a memory theater of repressive hauntings based on urban artifacts across a maritime archive of Dutch and Portuguese colonial pillage.
Colonial incursions from the sea, and the postcolonial aftershocks of these violent sea histories, lie largely forgotten for most formerly colonized coastal communities around the world. Offering a feminist log of sea journeys from the Malabar Coast of South India, through the Atlantic to the North Sea, May Joseph writes a navigational history of postcolonial coastal displacements. Excavating Dutch, Portuguese, Arab, Asian and African influences along the Malabar Coast, Joseph unearths the undertow of colonialism’s ruins. In Sea Log, the Bosphorus, the Tagus and the Amstel find coherence alongside the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Written in a clear and direct style, this volume will appeal to historians of transnational communities, as well as students and scholars of cultural studies, anthropology of space, area studies, maritime history and postcolonial studies.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Writing Anthropocene
Preface: Decolonial Periplus
1. Indian Ocean Affect
2. Sea of Shock
3. Ocean Ontologies
4. Contested Visuality
Part II: Periplus
5. Cochin, Dhow City
6. Dar-Es-Salaam, Socialist Utopia
7. Hanoi Palimpsest
8. Bamiyan Pillage
9. New York: Archipelagoes of the Unseen
10. Deciphering the Indian Ocean
May Joseph is Professor of Social Science and Cultural Studies, Pratt Institute, where she teaches a walking history of coastal New York. Joseph is Founder of Harmattan Theater and has produced site specific performances along Dutch and Portuguese maritime routes. Joseph’s other books include Ghosts of Lumumba (2019), Fluid New York: Cosmopolitan Urbanism and the Green Imagination (2013) and Nomadic Identities: The Performance of Citizenship (1999).
"May Joseph’s itinerary is singular but worldly, tending toward an otherworldliness where plenty bursts through colonial scarcities, where plenum pierces the One in everyone, where pleriplus is the genre of shared refuge in mobility. Her lyric, sharply analytic Sea Log is unprecedented and unanticipated in how it immediately establishes its absolute necessity. How else would we know how to sound the sound of the Indian Ocean as it washes New York shores?"
- Fred Moten, Professor in the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts
"Historically revealing, and politically attuned to the ongoing moment of decolonization, May Joseph’s Sea Log brings us to the Indian Ocean and its archive of colonial affects, brilliantly meeting the necessity for understanding the geopolitical crises of climate and environment. Taking us across coastal regions between Asia and Africa, Sea Log is an intimate and lyrical encounter with the other-than-human that also critically engages the inhuman. Powerful and poetic, this book is a moving rendition of what is lost and mourned, and what remains and inspires."
- Patricia Clough, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York