Migration by Boat: theories, politics, and memories

CFP deadlines: abstracts due 30 September; accepted papers due 30 May.

Dr. Lynda Mannik (see bio below) is seeking original chapters for a collection tentatively titled, Migration by Boat: theories, politics, and memories, which will explore ocean travel undertaken by refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants as a space and place where cultures intersect, and national boundaries and identities are reshaped, both in painful and creative ways. Migration by boat can symbolically be aligned with notions of deterritorialization that often support fears, yet also allow for renegotiations of identity, memory and feelings. Contributions from a multidisciplinary cohort are welcome. Authors are encouraged to submit provocative original writing (conceptual, empirical or theoretical) that emphasizes how migration by boat is remembered and represented; effects individual and social or cultural identity; and challenges or reinforces cultural or social structures. 

Unregulated movements of people via ocean voyages are often viewed as threatening to the solidarity of the national spaces that they arrive in, so much so that these arrivals have the power to wash away humanitarian sentiments. Increasingly, scholars are attempting to understand how “transnational flows of people, media and commodities” (Escobar 2001) can be viewed outside of standard dualistic terms and away from clear-cut juxtapositions of citizen/stranger, land/water, and victim/threat.

Symbolically, boats can be viewed as spaces and places where hopes and fears along with “poetics and politics are mobilized” (Perera 2013). In this context, boats carrying asylum seekers, refugees, and illegal immigrants not only move people and cultural capital between places, but also fuel cultural fantasies, dreams of adventure and hope, along with fears of invasion and terrorism. Oceanic voyages also represent liminal periods were human beings are “betwixt and between” (Turner 1969) real lives and national identities, nevertheless, communities are formed and relationships are fostered while en route.

Possible themes (not a restrictive list) might include:

  • How are arrivals of asylum seekers by boat represented in media portrayals, visually or discursively?
  • Symbolic and emotional elements related to migration by boat.
  • Rethinking place and space in relation to bodies of water.
  • Narratives and memories related to forced migration and travel by boat?
  • The “boat” as saviour/home/refuge, and conversely, the “boat” as traumatic experience.
  • How have representations of migrations by boat shifted with the digital revolution?
  • Have representations of migrations by boat changed in the era of globalization?
  • How can the elusive nature of travel by boat be compared to, or juxtaposed the elusive nature of memory.
  • Trauma and migration through ocean passages. How is this narrated, visualized and politicized?
  • The intersections of identity, nation, citizenship and ocean travel.
  • Travel by boat as a mediator of personal, social and/or cultural transformation, in both modern and historical contexts.
  • Representations of migration by boat in popular culture, movies, literature, art, performances etc.
  • The effects of migration by boat on identity in relation to gender, race, class, etc.

Chapters should be written in English and should not have been previously been published. Each final chapter will be between 6,000-7500 words (including references). Images are welcome. However, authors will be responsible for obtaining all rights for the publication of photographs etc. as well as research interviews that were undertaken (forms will be provided later).


  • September 30, 2013: Send abstracts of 500-750 words, together with a short CV including contact details, and one example of previously published work in a relevant field.
  • December 15, 2013: Acceptance letters will be sent to authors.
  • May 30, 2014: Submission of chapters.
  • Please submit all expressions of interest and abstracts/CVs to lyndamannik@trentu.ca
  • Preferably with the subject line: Migration by Boat

About the Author:
Dr. Lynda Mannik is a Visiting Assistant Professor in cultural anthropology at Trent University. She recently published Photography, Memory and Refugee Identity: the voyage of the S.S. Walnut, 1948 with the University of British Columbia Press. Through memories and photographs it explores the experiences of Estonian refugees, who migrated from Sweden to Canada in search of a safe haven after Stalin occupied their homeland. Mannik has also co-edited a volume titled, Reclaiming Canadian Bodies: Representation and Visual Media, which looks at how representations of Canadian bodies are constructed and performed within the context of visual and discursive mediated content (Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2014). She is also the author of Canadian Indian Cowboys in Australia: Representation, Rodeo and the RCMP at the Royal Easter Show, 1939 (University of Calgary Press, 2006) and has published in Visual Studies, and Memory Studies.

Above adapted from more detailed CFP found here.