Tarek Elhaik: ""Alboran": Cogitations on the Nature of a Marine Reserve in the Alboran Sea"

The Departmental Seminar Series features Tarek Elhaik, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis.

Image may contain: Glasses, Clothing, Eyewear, Hair, Face.

The seminar will be held on Zoom. Join Zoom Meeting.


In this talk I examine an ongoing debate between fishermen, marine biologists, and environmental activists on the Alboran Sea along the Northern Moroccan coastline.  

In recent years, fishermen have challenged several port authorities who, according to them, have failed to take measures against bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) whose repeated attacks damage their catch and fishing nets. This initially isolated phenomenon has now taken on the form of a politically and ecologically volatile assemblage of human and non-human life forms. Since Morocco is a signatory of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans, striking a balance between regional touristic interests, fishermen’s demands, and international agreement has become a delicate act.  

These debates are primarily concerned with the management of fisheries and halieutic resources in an ecologically threatened maritime zone where resources have become increasingly depleted due a series of factors, from overfishing to pollution. In this paper I pay attention to the different "styles of cogitation" all concerned human parties bring to the table. Cogitation is a term I borrow and reconfigure from 12th century polymath Ibn Rushd or Averroes to designate a “meta-aesthetics”, to borrow from Valerie Gonzalez. According to Averroes, we are all cogitators in that the human soul is able to receive and think the infinite through the double powers of image-work and concept-work.  For him, fishermen cogitate. Environmental activists cogitate too, as do marine scientists. Concretely, I inquire into the way my interlocutors—participants assembled by the trickster and powerful bottlenose dolphin—create and negotiate their respective styles of cogitation. Sailing with Averroes around my new fieldwork site becomes an opportunity to anthropologically test both the relationship between fieldwork and philosophy and what I propose to call “marine cogitations”. 


Tarek Elhaik is associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of The Incurable-Image: Curating Post-Mexican Film and Media Arts (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) and of Cogitations: Aesthetics and Anthropology (Routledge, forthcoming). He has also published various articles and essays in both academic and non-academic venues. Between 2014-2017, he was part of Ism Ism Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America, a collaborative team of researchers and platform hosted by the Los Angeles Film Forum and funded by the Getty Foundation's PST initiative. He is also the founder of AIL: The Anthropology of the Image Lab and the host of the radio show "Cogitations."

Published Jan. 18, 2021 9:48 AM - Last modified Feb. 2, 2021 10:50 AM