Navigating gods and monsters
: The Production of safe insecure spatialities in the deterrence of risk at sea

  • Jessica Simonds

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study contributes the conceptualisation of ‘safe’ insecurity to existing literatures in critical Security Studies. To achieve this, this dissertation renders many concepts of International Relations that have developed to suit a terrestrial and solid understanding of the world as amphibious. This means that perils experienced at sea, particularly piracy, are represented to seafarers in tools that guide their transit of the 71% of the earth's surface that constitutes our oceans and seas subjectively and relatively – taking stock of the fluidity of the sea and human mobilities aboard merchant vessels as they propel the maritime spaces and places that are produced between ports. I explore literary and historical representations of maritime risk, such as Odysseus’ lengthy journey home from Troy and Sir Francis Drakes role as a spatial disruptor through the Colonial construct of the ‘privateer’. These discussions reveal that sea space has been represented and therefore lived differently based on its representation relative to the moment it is being experienced, which leads to specific rules of participation at sea that may be covert or overtly defined. These rules accentuate a binary of ‘God’ and ‘Monster’ relative to who is authenticated and excluded at sea. The empirical aspect of this dissertation applies this conceptual argument by drawing on the contemporary experience of navigating Somali piracy. It draws on the role of third-party maritime insurers (P&I Clubs) and seafarers to document how experiences of piracy have been used on land as the core knowledge that is mobilised to reproduce and refine practical deterrence measures that are used onboard merchant vessels. This analysis reveals that through exchanges of knowledge and expertise of life at sea, guidance is refined to embody the everyday norms of seafaring but, most importantly, pursues security without posing further risk to the merchant mariner. Drawing on personal testimonies of seafarers who have transited the aptly named High-Risk Area and the experience of elite, expert representatives of the maritime insurance industry, this study contributes the documentation of experiencing, representing and deterring piracy as part of a more extended, unfinished history of navigating risks at sea.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2026.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorHeather Johnson (Supervisor) & Michael Bourne (Supervisor)


  • Critical security studies
  • maritime security
  • international relations
  • political geography
  • metaphysical philosophy
  • piracy studies
  • insurance
  • history

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