R as in Remediterra-neanization

von Daniela Bär Daniela Bär, *1989, ist Kulturpublizistik-Absolventin und Zollfreilager-Mitgründerin. gepostet am 23. Dezember 2014

Once upon a time there was an ocean that, due to a powerful push from the African plate and tectonic pressure from the east, shrunk to an inland sea. Nevertheless, after the Second Punic War, this sea was at the center of the world: The Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean completely; a singular case in its history that has lasted for several centuries; the inland sea became the mare nostrum. The Mediterranean has been connecting the cultures of three continents ever since: it is a gigantic forum, the forum Mediterraneum. Coast-specific characteristics were culturally universalized through the connection to the mare nostrum, local inventions became goods for import and export: The Mediterranean Sea was a Mediation Sea, especially between East and West.

At the time the Ottoman Empire came to power, Italy’s sea republics took center stage in the Mediterranean: Venetians were the frontrunners because they defied the mighty Turks in the fight for the sea passages by organizing pilgrimages to the Holy Land. They, together with the allies of European Christianity, comprised the Holy League: Three continents are now waging war for the sea of three cultures. The conflict surrounding the Eastern Mediterranean lasts for centuries, a tug of war of conquests and restitutions, the republic advances forward and retreats again. Instead of Ottoman war ships, cruise ships from all over the world will later threaten the lagoon and its inhabitants’ sense of citizenship. Until a regulation is announced in the summer of 2014 that prohibits ships from passing through the canals they had previously used.

Next to their participation in a literal holy war, the republic of Venice asserted itself as the trade center of the battled territory. Ideas, knowledge and tradable goods are transported via sea passages into the world, the Mediterranean is being globalized. The lines between epic, martial and touristic formats are blurred: The Odyssey and the Grand Tour, the pilgrimage and the crusades, the refugee boat and the cruising amusement park. Conjuring and travelling to art-holy sites overlap – a cultural space expands, implodes, migrates. Further and further away from its coast, the Mediterranean is becoming a lifestyle: the displacement of personal leisure activities into the public space, the collective, can also be observed under the starry skies of summer nights in cities that are not located near the Mediterranean. Residents decorate their own four walls with terracotta vases, relax on roped chairs, dine at tables made of olive tree wood, grind sea salt, and make pesto. Nowadays the term Mediterraneanization mainly describes phenomena such as botellóns, neighborhood parties and dance demonstrations – the (jet set) territory of the Mediterranean stretches from the Côte d’Azur to Tuscany, or it expands further to Marrakesh, to Tangier, to Beirut.

The 21st century discussion on whether or not the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is valid on the high seas shows that the Mediterranean is still an internationally important body of water. Due to regulations like Dublin II, all countries with EU external borders are turning into immigration countries. The Mediterranean turns into a stage for repressive refugee politics, the Shipwreck with Spectator (Hans Blumenberg) turns into a real-life drama series. And the term mare nostrum is revived as an operation of the Italian Marines: the yearlong measures for saving refugees in distress at sea are implemented in October 2013. However nostrum has undergone a crucial semantic transformation: Our sea is no longer the sea in our midst, but it is ours and not yours. The Mediterranean, which filled the emptiness between coasts and thus promoted trade, has become an obstacle at high sea, an obstacle that should be overcome. That the borders are drawn on the ocean floor and not visible on the water surface does not make crossing it any easier. Nowadays, when the word Mediterranean is used primarily for cooking with olive oil, or when the Mediterranean Sea has become the center of stories about Frontex and refugees, then a remediterraneanization is in order: a return to one west-east, north-south, Orient and Western World balanced space. A return to an idea that is not colored by the perspective of those who take up national causes again and again.

Quellen zum Text:

Translation: Sophia Cosby