Modern Europe Colloquium | Sea Traffic: Rebel Sailors and Arbitrage Across Empires in the Twentieth Century

Event time: 
Monday, February 26, 2024 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Humanities Quadrangle (), 107 See map
320 York Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

The Modern Europe Colloquium presents Minayo Nasiali, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, on “Sea Traffic: Rebel Sailors and Arbitrage Across Empires in the Twentieth Century”

Location: HQ (Humanities Quadrangle), Rm 107, 320 York St.

The Modern Europe Colloquium is generously sponsored by the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund; the European Studies Council of the Yale MacMillan Center

During the first half of the twentieth century, the labor of African and Afro-European sailors was essential to the global shipping industry. These seafarers shoveled coal and stoked fires in the engine rooms of steamships which transported the world’s people and goods. However, their bodies and—above all—their movements were deeply suspected by the empires that claimed them, France and Great Britain. This talk examines one element of my broader project, by exploring how sailors engaged in arbitrage (buying cheap and selling dear), helping to generate trans-imperial markets across multiple currency zones.

Bio: I received my bachelor’s degree in History from Stanford University in 2003 and began graduate training at the University of Michigan in 2004. I completed my doctoral studies in 2010, specializing in Modern French History and Empire. From 2010-2011, I was a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the UC Berkeley Department of History.

My book, Native to the Republic: Empire, Social Citizenship, and Everyday Life in Marseille since 1945, was published by Cornell University Press in 2016. It shows how local-level debates about belonging and the built environment have shaped a discriminatory system of welfare in Modern France.

My new project builds upon my scholarly interest in Modern European empires, but shifts focus from landscapes to seascapes. Currently titled, Sea Traffic: A Clandestine History of Shipping, Exploitation, and Rebel Sailors Across Empires, this study explores the maritime world of colonial African seafarers in the first half of the twentieth century. Focusing in particular on their trans-imperial mobilities, my research explores how sailors from French and British Africa engaged with and circumvented systems of economic and political coercion.

Minayo Nasiali, Associate Professor, University of California