Jatin Dua is an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. His research explores maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean, focusing on processes and projects of governance, law, and economy along the East African coast. His current book project examines maritime piracy in the Western Indian Ocean within frameworks of protection, risk and regulation by moving between the worlds of coastal communities in northern Somalia, maritime insurance adjustors in London, and the global shipping industry. He has published in the Journal of East African Studies, Middle East Report, and the Journal of International Criminal Justice and contributes regularly to media outlets, such as Al Jazeera, on issues of maritime piracy and governance in Somalia and Kenya.
Since 2008, a number of high profile incidents of piracy off the coast of East Africa have resulted in increased global attention to this region, including the deployment of a multi-national naval patrol and attempts to prosecute suspected pirates. Policy makers have attributed this phenomenon to the lack of a strong centralized government in Somalia and called for various forms of intervention on-shore to address piracy’s root causes. However, this interpretation of the conflict obscures a longer history of regulation and transgression, and piracy’s long pedigree, in the Western Indian Ocean, and ignores a range of contemporary factors that have produced such events. My research resituates piracy within histories of the Indian Ocean and longstanding attempts to redefine sovereignty and legality within this oceanic space, and suggests that maritime piracy may be better understood as an attempt to secure protection from global poaching and from the surveillance of regulators. Piracy as a system of protection competes with a variety of state and non-state forms of protection in this area. My research will investigate the encounters between these overlapping regimes of protection and security in order to understand forms of belonging and exclusion elicited by recent attempts to police sovereignty in the Western Indian Ocean.