• Agitated Waters: Migration, Borders, and Activism in the Wake of the Mediterranean Spring
    Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani
    Zone Books, 2022
    Forensic Oceanography:
    Charles Heller &
    Lorenzo Pezzani

A reconstruction of the altercation of search and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean on November 6, 2017, 2018. Courtesy Forensic Oceanography and Forensic Architecture

Over the last 30 years, new geographies of power, legal architectures, and surveillance apparatuses have transformed the Mediterranean Sea into a deadly frontier zone. During this time, more than 30,000 migrants have died, killed by the liquid violence of a selective and militarized mobility regime. This book traces the ways in which, since 2011, Forensic Oceanography (FO) has sought to contest this state of affairs. Mobilizing cutting-edge cartographic methods, 3-D modeling, geospatial technologies, and image production, FO has taken spatial analysis to the seemingly inaccessible space of the sea to reconstruct migrants’ shipwrecks and human rights violations in the Mediterranean. In the book, these investigations are treated as entry points into the wider politics of space and media which have turned the sea into a central terrain of political struggle, at once a militarized border zone and a laboratory for new forms of activism.

Charles Heller is a researcher and filmmaker whose work has a long-standing focus on the politics of migration. He completed a doctorate in research architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, focusing on the politics of mobility across the Mediterranean Sea. He is a research fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

Lorenzo Pezzani is an architect and researcher. He completed a doctorate in research architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is currently lecturer and leads the master’s studio in Forensic Architecture. His work deals with the spatial politics and visual cultures of migration with a particular focus on the geography of the ocean.

Working together since 2011, Heller and Pezzani cofounded Forensic Oceanography, a collaborative project that develops innovative methodologies to document the conditions that lead to migrants’ deaths at sea. They also launched the WatchTheMed platform, a tool enabling nongovernmental actors to exercise a critical right to look at the EU’s maritime frontier. They have authored a number of human rights reports, each of which has developed cutting edge forensic cartography and visualization methods, which have had a major impact both across academia, nongovernmental politics, and the public sphere, and have been used as evidence in courts of law.