Karin Ahlberg, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Tides from the south: A more-than-human ethnography of the afterlife of a historic mega project - marine species migration through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea

In this presentation, I discuss my new research project which explores the contemporary life of a historic mega project: the afterlife of the Suez Canal. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 not only shortened the sea route from Europe to India, enhanced humans and goods mobility and accelerated colonization of East Africa. It also broke biogeographic barriers that for millions of years had isolated the biotas of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, enabling a migration of marine species, so called Lessepsian Migration. Over 150 years, 300 new species that have settled in the Mediterranean, affecting local ecologies, outrivaling native species, and damaging fisheries, tourism and power plants. Being tropical in their nature, the new species have an advantage over traditional Mediterranean species, and this advantage will most likely increase with global warming. So far, Lessepsian migration has primarily been an object of biological research. This is unfortunate, not only due to its effects on human lifeworlds, but because a study of this ecological shift can teach us how a range of human actors, in Egypt and Europe, think about nature, non-human migration and indigeneity. In this presentation, I outline the larger design of this research project, and how I conceptually, methodologically and geographically attempt to approach this complex phenomenon.

Karin Ahlberg is a social anthropologist, who earned her PhD from SOAS, University of London, in 2017. Based on long-term fieldwork in Cairo between 2011 and 2013, her dissertation explores the politics of Egyptian tourism before and after 2011. She is interested in “infrastructures of image making” (image politics, country branding and global news) in relation to emerging forms of governance and citizenship in the global south. She has recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago, and is currently working on turning her PhD research into a monograph and a range of other publications. Ahlberg’s new research project explores the Suez Canal and Lessepsian migration from anthropological and more-than-human perspectives.

All seminars in the series.