Instructors: Nora Akawi, Naor Ben-Yehoyada

Open to GSAPP and GSAS students. Registration for this class is limited, details below.

Course Narrative:

In May 2010, the ships of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid, medical supplies, and construction materials with the aim of challenging Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, were intercepted in international waters between the Palestine/Israel coast and Cyprus. The Israeli Navy’s violent seizure of one of the ships brought renewed international attention to the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination, and raised the condemnation of Israel’s continued colonial project to a new level. The Israeli settler-colonial project and Palestinian resistance are primarily understood as territorial, with their respective imaginaries pertaining to the land. Momentarily, the flotilla and its military raid shifted the focus towards the sea, and presented a reminder that the struggle, not only in the Gaza Strip, but along the coast of historic Palestine, is as littoral as it is territorial.

In this seminar, through reading, writing, and mapping, participants embark on a journey through the maritime aspects of geopolitical constructs in Israel/Palestine, particularly focusing on trade, militarization, and resource extraction, but also on collective environmental and political and cultural narratives and imaginaries involving the sea.

In a recent address at the United Nations, Temple University professor of media studies Marc Lamont Hill called for a free Palestine “from the river to the sea”. The subsequent public fury and the termination of his contract with CNN is yet another indication of the centrality of maritime frontiers, both material and immaterial, not only in the ways they restrict movement and livelihood, but also as they forge boundaries for both speech and imagination. A reading of Israel/Palestine’s sea and shore offers an insight into such constructed frontiers, as well as alternative transnational frames (Mediterranean, Levantine, or Pan-Arab) with the different ways in which they reconfigure the story and the territory. Such a perspective also stages the contemporary Israeli colonial project within a continuum of multiple maritime imperialisms, from Mussolini’s mare nostrum, through France’s “the Mediterranean as the French Sea,” to the various British forces and their corresponding geopolitical projects in the region.

This cross-listed class will bring together graduate students from the two departments of GSAS and GSAPP to study, discuss, and visualize both historical and contemporary aspects of the Mediterranean coast of Israel/Palestine. Students would be encouraged to approach questions of spatiality as it overflows the frameworks of territory and nation-states into maritime constellations, and to reconfigure geopolitical representations considering both the movement and suspension of histories, bodies, produce, resources, and imaginaries of the sea.

Registration for this class is limited. Please send your CV, letter of interest, and relevant work samples (mapping and drawing work, or written samples) by Friday January 25th to and

On the Mapping Borderlands seminar:

Mapping Maritime Frontiers in the Eastern Mediterranean is part of a series of seminars and project Mapping Borderlands initiated by Nora Akawi and Nina Kolowratnik in 2014.

The seminar takes as a starting point and problematizes the understanding of territoriality as it is still heavily rooted in our imagination of the world as divided into compartmentalized, distinct, and mutually exclusive political formations. It aims to visualize movement and its suspension, both regular and irregular, recognized and unrecognized, as the central elements that define contemporary territories and geopolitical terrains. In Spring 2019, the seminar expands on the political constructs in geographies beyond the terrain or the land, and considers the waters and the coast as spaces not of void and absence, but of memory, of history, and politicized architectural interventions.

The project follows Ananya Roy’s call in The 21st Century Metropolis to “blast open theoretical geographies”, particularly paying attention to Arjun Appadurai’s proposal to shift the emphasis from ‘trait geographies’ to ‘process geographies’: “in other words, on the forms of movement, encounter, and exchange that confound the idea of bounded world-regions with immutable traits” and potentially forge new geographies of urban theory. The hope is that through critical analysis and representation (drawing, mapping, and other visualizations), not of static conditions, but rather of processes both of building and dismantling borders, other imaginaries for shared terrains can emerge.

Spring 2019 Course Structure:

The seminar is organized in two sections: the first dedicated to readings, discussions, and experimentation with visualizing maritime histories and spatiality, and the second is dedicated to development of the final projects of the semester on the topics of interest.

During the first half of the semester, students engage with texts (historical / theoretical, literary, as well as report documents) as well as visual materials (films, maps, and other representations) addressing the histories of colonialism, resistance, trade, and culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, specifically along the coast of Israel/Palestine.

The weeks dedicated to reading, mapping, and discussion are organized according to the following thematic structure:

  • Pre-1948 maritime history of the Eastern Mediterranean
  • Imaginaries, past and future, of the sea
  • Trade and infrastructure
  • Militarization and the construction of physical and non-physical maritime frontiers
  • Capitalization of the waters through drilling and the extraction of resources

Each week, based on areas interests and expertise, students working in groups of two would be responsible for leading the discussion through the presentation of a brief response text to the readings, and the visualization/mapping of key issues raised.

After the sixth week, students have the option of either working in newly formed pairs or remain in the same group. With the guidance of the instructors through desk crits and written feedback, students will develop research projects related to the topics of their interest and addressed in the previous weeks. Three presentations with guest critics and experts will be organized throughout the second half of the semester. Successful final projects are expected to include a rigorous phase of research and mapping/drawing experimentation, and the final formats include final presentation and a hard copy of an essay (~2500 words) and visual materials. Hard copies of final projects are due on May 10.

Course schedule:

January 23: Introduction - January 30: A Short Maritime pre-1948 History of the Eastern Mediterranean - February 6: Offshore and Onshore Imaginaries of the Sea February 12: **Arteries in a Liquid Body Politic: Trade & Infrastructure - February 19: Militarizing the Waters - February 26: Underwater Futures: Extraction, Drilling, Resources - March 6: Teams formed + Prospectus due - March 13: Midterms presentations with guest critics - March 20: Spring Break - March 27: Synthesizing research findings and learnings - April 3: Desk crits - April 10: Desk crits with guest critics - April 17: Pre-final presentation - April 24: Desk crit by appointment

Final review date TBD (between May 3 and 10). Submission of final projects is due on May 10.

Other Semesters & Sections
Course Semester Title Student Work Instructor Syllabus Requirements & Sequence Location & Time Session & Points Call No.
A6797‑1 Fall 2019
Echoing Borders: :Mapping Borderlands: Drawing From The Jawlan
Nora Akawi
W 11 AM - 1 PM
3 Points
A6797‑1 Fall 2018
Mapping Borderlands
Nora Akawi Syllabus
300 Buell North
W 11 AM - 1 PM
Full Semester
3 Points
A6797‑1 Fall 2017
Echoing Borders: The Production of Space Within New Paradigms of Citizenship
Nora Akawi, Khaled Malas Syllabus History - Non-Western
300 Buell South
W 9 AM -11 AM
Full Semester
3 Points
A6797‑1 Fall 2016
Nina Kolowratnik, Nora Akawi Syllabus HIST- NON - WESTERN
W 9 AM -11 AM
3 Points
A6797‑1 Fall 2015
Ht akawi kolowratnik laurenjohnson harrisonratcliff bush fa15 04 copy
Ht akawi kolowratnik joachimhackl fa15 03 copy
Ht akawi kolowratnik jasondanforth fa15 01 copy
Nina Kolowratnik, Nora Akawi
W 9 AM -11 AM
3 Points
A6797‑1 Fall 2014
W 09:00A-11:00ABUE BUELL HALL 300 S
3 Points
This website uses cookies as well as similar tools and technologies to understand visitors' experiences. By continuing to use this website, you consent to Columbia University's usage of cookies and similar technologies, in accordance with the Columbia University Website Cookie Notice.