Dumping Fate: Toxic Waste and its Maritime Aftermath

When and Where

Thursday, April 11, 2024 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George Street, 1st floor


Jatin Dua
Naor Ben-Yehoyada


Join us for "Dumping Fate: Toxic Waste and its Maritime Aftermath" with Professors Jatin Dua, University of Michigan and Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Columbia University.This Public Talk is part of a 2023-2024 Andrew Mellon Sawyer Seminar titled “Evasion: Thinking the Underside of Surveillance.” 

About the talk:

In the middle of the Cold War, various state officials, politicians, middlemen, and mafiosi operated in transporting US and Italian-based transnational toxic (chemical & radioactive) waste to Somalia, Burkina Faso, Venezuela, and Haiti during the 1980s. The circuit stood at the center of several Italian Parliamentary investigative commissions (with self-described inconclusive reports in 1995, in 2001,and in 2018) and numerous journalistic and judicial investigations.

We focus on the structure, dynamics, and ramifications of the Italian-Somali branch of this circuit. What forms of transnational political relations mobilized to facilitate the transit and depositing of toxic waste, and how did these circuit reshape those relations? What traces did such toxic material leave en route? What damaging effects did it have on humans and non-humans both in places of transit and where it was deposited? How did erstwhile and ongoing colonial and imperial relations shape locations, actions, and transactions along the route? What political imaginaries of shared fate, reparation, responsibility, and evidence motivate the aftermath of this dumping of fateful waste?

About Professor Dua:

Jatin Dua is an associate professor of Anthropology and Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. His research explores maritime mobility, and its perils and possibilities, in the Indian Ocean, focusing on processes and projects of governance, law, and economy. His book, Captured at Sea: Piracy and Protection in the Indian Ocean, published with the University of California Press (December 2019) and winner of the 2020 Elliot P. Skinner Book Award, is a multi-sited ethnographic and archival engagement with Somali piracy and contestations over legitimate and illegitimate commerce in the Western Indian Ocean. In addition, he has published a number of articles on maritime anthropology, captivity, political economy, and sovereignty. His current research projects continue this emphasis on maritime worlds and their entanglements with law, sovereignty, economy, and sociality through two main projects on chokepoints and port making in the Indian Ocean and a research project on the lives of seafarers from the Global South. He teaches courses on the anthropology of law and regulation; oceanic studies; global capitalism; state and non-state violence and a course on the various historical and contemporary practices that have been labeled “piracy” from maritime raiding to the moral economy of hacking. He holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University (2014) and an MA in International Law from the American University in Cairo (2006). His research has been funded by a number of national and international foundations, including the Social Science Research Council, National Science Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation

About Professor Ben-Yehoyada:

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 monograph, The Mediterranean Incarnate: Transnational Region Formation between Sicily and Tunisia since World War II (Chicago Press, 2017), 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 show how we can to study them from the moving vessels that weave these constellations together and stage their social relations and dynamics in full view. He has also written shorter pieces about the different phases of the dynamics of maritime unauthorized migration and interdiction, as well as on the role that the Mediterranean’s seabed plays in Italian political retrospection.

His current project follows perpetual debate about what the Mafia is and how anti-Mafia forms of inquiry (by magistrates, journalists, political activists, police investigators) encounter this dilemma. It follows the recent trial regarding the 1988 murder of a journalist and the several preceding key criminal cases that the trial has revived, all of which, people still assume, involved the Mafia. He focuses on the doubts, suspicions, and disputes that arise at the intersection of different forms of inquiry by magistrates, journalists, police investigators, and politicians. He argues that the epistemic tensions between magistrates and other actors turn the wider field of anti-Mafia inquiry into a key moving site of the struggle over the relationship between law, society, and the state.

Registration required.

Contact Information: Katharine Bell, cdts.admin@utoronto.ca

Contact Information

Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies


Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies


170 St. George Street, 1st floor