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TALK | The Mediterranean Incarnate

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In The Mediterranean Incarnate, anthropologist Naor Ben-Yehoyada takes us aboard the Naumachos for a thirty-seven-day voyage in the fishing grounds between Sicily and Tunisia. He also takes us on a historical exploration of the past eighty years to show how the Mediterranean has reemerged as a modern transnational region. From Sicilian poaching in North African territory to the construction of the TransMediterranean gas pipeline, Ben-Yehoyada examines the transformation of political action, imaginaries, and relations in the central Mediterranean while detailing the remarkable bonds that have formed between the Sicilians and Tunisians who live on its waters.
The book centers on the town of Mazara del Vallo, located on the southwestern tip of Sicily some ninety nautical miles northeast of the African shore. Ben-Yehoyada intertwines the town’s recent turbulent history—which has been fraught with conflicts over fishing rights, development projects, and how the Mediterranean should figure in Italian politics at large—with deep accounts of life aboard the Naumacho, linking ethnography with historical anthropology and political-economic analysis. Through this sophisticated approach, he crafts a new viewpoint on the historical processes of transnational region formation, one offered by these moving ships as they weave together new social and political constellations.


Naor Ben-Yehoyada's work examines unauthorized migration, criminal justice, the aftermath of development, and transnational political imaginaries in the central and eastern Mediterranean. His forthcoming monograph, The Mediterranean Incarnate: Transnational Region Formation between Sicily and Tunisia since World War II, offers a historical anthropology of the recent re-emergence of the Mediterranean. He is specifically interested in the processes through which transnational regions form and dissipate. He proposes to view such spaces as ever-changing constellations, and proposes to study them from the moving vessels that weave these constellations together and stage their social relations and dynamics in full view.

His new project follows anti-Mafia investigators and the perpetual debate about what the Mafia is. He examines how the debate positions investigators’ anthropological imagination at the heart of the struggle over the relationship between the state and society in Sicily. By studying how doubt, suspicion and surprise shape the performance of legal certainty, he examines the dynamics that shape the meaning and the reach of law, politics and knowledge.