Composing a world of common vulnerability: Spectral metaphors and disoriented migrations in Ruth Padel’s 'The Mara Crossing'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As Iain Chambers and others have recently explored, the contemporary Mediterranean is a space of multiple contradictions increasingly defined by the negotiation of physical and political presence and absence. Via a reading of metaphor as a mode of critical dis- and re-orientation in Ruth Padel's recent collection, The Mara Crossing, this article explores the viability of surrendering the orientation of reason and certainty to engage with the disempowered and dislocated experience of irregular migrants. Drawing on Paul Ricoeur's description of the disorientation of metaphor, by which ‘one must continue to identify the previous incompatibility through the new compatibility,’ I consider the opportunities metaphor affords for reflecting on the possibility of a re-oriented, more ethically-informed politics. Counter to what Sandra Ponzanesi calls the 'alluring metaphors of liquidity' which proliferate in postcolonial criticism, Padel's explorations of the violence which frequently attends human and animal, citizen and non-citizen migrations posits a sense of affinity between different migrations in the metaphoric process. In particular, I argue that the spectral nature of metaphor, as the invocation of a thing out of time and place, invites readers to engage with a new way of looking and thinking about irregular migration which can, tentatively, contribute to what Bruno Latour calls the composition of a world of common vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Early online date24 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Mediterranean
  • metaphor
  • irregular migration
  • animals
  • Ruth Padel


Dive into the research topics of 'Composing a world of common vulnerability: Spectral metaphors and disoriented migrations in Ruth Padel’s 'The Mara Crossing''. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this