Looking for a Relationship with the Sea: Urban-Scape and Cosmopolitan Memories in Contemporary Odessa

Emilio Cocco

Abstract


The sea is not quite on the radar of social science. However, things change when the sea and the land touch each other and the sea resonates in living social relations. In some cases, the encounters with the sea take place in the formof embodied imagination processes that bring about productive dissonances. My research aims to unveil the frictions between dissonant embodied imaginations of local citizens and tourists in an exceptional ‘landscape of dreams’: the post-cosmopolitan port-city of Odessa. In 2008–2010 I carried out field-work with interviews and surveys aimed at comparing the ways maritime imperial legacies were exploited in Trieste and Odessa. After almost a decade, I was back ‘in the pearl of the Black Sea’ with the intention of carrying out a more in-depth investigation of the relationship between tourism and the exploitation of cosmopolitan memories in this post-socialist port city of Ukraine. My data are a combination of secondary statistics, ethnographicwork, and first-hand qualitative accounts, both audio-visual and interviews, collected from April 2017 to June 2018, here including a two-week period spent in Odessa. After a preliminary elaboration of data, I ampersuaded that the tourist relations in contemporary Odessa are oriented by the double endeavour of both hosts and guests looking for a special relationship with the sea. The sea and the waterside work both as privileged viewpoints for urban spectators (both tourists and residents) and a necessary medium to establish a relationship with the city and its multicultural past.

Keywords: Odessa, cosmopolitanism, sea, tourism, urban-scape


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