The Gaza Freedom Flotilla: Ethnographic notes on ‘othering violence’ (Respond to this article at


  • I am grateful to Rana Boukarim, Michele Kayaleh and Shalini Randeria for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this paper, and to the six anonymous AT reviewers. I would also like to thank Gustavo Barbosa and Elizabeth Frantz for inviting me to the SWANA seminar series at the London School of Economics to talk about my experience as an anthropologist with the Freedom Flotilla.


This narrative recounts the events that unfolded around the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as witnessed by an anthropologist invited onboard one of its ships. It shows a pervasive preoccupation of neocolonial states with Othering violence. This is defined as the ability to transform spaces of liberation and solidarity into spaces of deviation and imprisonment. The choice to be an outspoken participant-observer opens up novel spaces for reflection and research otherwise left to the sensationalist tendencies of journalism and the propaganda machinery of states. Moreover, acting as witnesses to events such as these, in our professional academic as well as in our personal capacity, could also be a last line of defence against expanding Othering violence.