[Image: Photo by Associated Press.]
There is something striking about this portrait of recently captured Somali pirates being held at the Kenya Ports Authority Port Police station in Mombasa. How they are all lined up and seated together despite their detention, still as a tightly knit squad of nimble water thugs – only now without their boat, the necessary architecture for their crime. They’re formation appears much the same as I’d expect them to be perched down low in their little pirate dingy ready to pounce on the next vulnerable ocean liner that should pass through the lawless zone that is their territory.
It’s almost as if nothing has changed for them except their vessel has been literally pulled out from underneath their asses and they have only maybe barely realized it; even now, in the confines of a jail cell, they’re still without an inkling of what else to do – piracy was their livelihood, their instinct. They are now just fish out of water.
That’s probably an exaggerated reading of their faces.
But it’s interesting how those blue prison uniforms further emphasize their unity, inseparability, as if the deep sea blue material (a testament to their crime) has merely taken place of their boat itself; now held together only by sinewy threads of cotton; as if one tightly stitched entity had been arrested and not eight separate persons.
Perhaps even more critically, we are shown that the sea pirates are not just a loose string of single random incidents strewn across the region, or the world, for that matter, that we can bring together in a single police line up, but – as you have no doubt been reading the news – this issue is fast becoming a much more wholesome and costly threat to some extremely high stakes economic players who take great risk scooting their goods through that neck of the woods that is the enclave of “pirate polity.”
One other intriguing detail is the gridded concrete floor upon which this vessel-less outfit of gulf punks sits idly now, having replaced the ocean – once the terrain of their domain that afforded them great asymmetric platitudes and maneuverability within and off the grid to seize upon those lesser agile vessels of prize who are instead bound to the very rigidity of the ocean grid which defines the naval networks of global trade. Here, their craft has been taken from them and the landscape upon which they rest is an unebbing and waterless lattice of cold concrete slab, a symbolic flooring that visually enforces the notion of the state’s projective ability to render the global outlaws as subjects, or “prizes” of an all-powerful transnational cartography of state control.
Needless to say, unlike in this photo, their backs are hardly up against the wall.