Shapes on the Horizon: 
Reading the Pumice Raft and Migration through Agentic Ecologies and Australian Border Control

Metaphors of Migration, On_Culture, Issue 10, 2020

Following the eruption of geologic matter from an undersea volcano in 2019, its passage through ocean waters and rendering in media representations, to traversals of these same waters by asylum seekers journeying to Australia, we seek to draw a line between mediatisation, attention, and flow as it relates to the drawing of borders. Through considerations of the agentic power of bodies, toward a reading of Australian history and cultural identity, our text parallels the traversal of the smooth space of the ocean by the pumice raft through its being and representation within an Australian context, with traversals of sea made by asylum seekers.

The raft and the migrant disrupt Deleuzoguattarian concepts of the smooth and the striated. From the moment of Invasion, through the persistence of xenophobic attitudes to the Other, shifting borders and contemporary border policy developments, we follow the ongoing attempts of the nation-state to stratify the smooth. Positioning the raft and the migrant within the framework of holey space, we endeavor to elucidate aspects of Australia’s nissology, littoral ensconcement and political environment — entwining the oceanic with lived experiences, bridging gaps between the human and the more-than-human in moving toward apprehensions of power and control in relation to our oceanic surrounds.

In stepping into these flows, whereby we encounter the striations of power and control, we step through Australian history, from Invasion to recent attempts to legislate refugee arrivals. In doing so, the sea and the shore become troubled sites, in which the arrival of bodies upon the shore, both human and other-than-human, are refigured as abject and aberrant.