Shapes on the Horizon

Reading the Pumice Raft and Migration through Agentic Ecologies and Australian Border Control

  • Jaxon Waterhouse
  • Chantelle Mitchell
Keywords: Deleuze, littoral spaces, geology, detention centers, migration


In 2019, reports of a raft of pumice adrift in the Pacific Ocean circulated. We track its movement through surveillance technologies — tools of control that buttress turbulent and shifting contemporary borders. Our consideration of the movement of people across porous borders apprehends migratory discourse and critiques framings of abjectness, fear, and colonial reperformance in an Australian context. Security and surveillance, and the littoral composition of Australian borders figure as means of maintaining and reinforcing fixed, terrestrial constructions of sovereignty. Recent border polices involving stratified spaces of offshore detention become bureaucratic and inhumane extensions of the littoral sphere — convergences of the smooth and stratified, that invert, yet reinforce colonial control and persecution. Framed by Deleuzoguattarian notions and our ongoing research project, Ecological Gyre Theory, we see overlaps, collisions, and parallels between the pumice raft as agentic, ecological force, and legacies of invasion and colonisation, reperformed onto people and landscapes. Considering the agentic power of bodies, we read the traversal of the sea by both raft and asylum seekers towards a critique of Australian history and cultural identity. Our critique endorses both a decolonial and New Materialist approach, exploring ecology and being amidst climate collapse and a rapidly changing world.