O: Etcetera
Et cetera: and so forth. What could be less clear? And so forth, and the rest, and so on; however the Latin term “et cetera” is translated, it indicates the possibility of enumerating whatever remains, like checking random items on a list and stopping halfway because to continue listing the items would sound too obvious. Patronizingly obvious. As in: boats, yachts, tourists, fishermen, souvenirs, buildings, streets, restaurants, festas, salt pans, et cetera, et cetera. And the rest: the term links this last chapter of our Homo Melitensis both to the preceding eighteen chapters and to whatever lies beyond. But how could we know what lies beyond and, indeed, what lies within? Within the implied certainty of this inventory’s leftovers lies an ambiguous space that derails any system of codification. Included in homage to Jorge Luis Borges, whose Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge inspired Homo Melitensis in its early stages, it supposedly includes all essential features that did not fit other chapters. Yet how could we find shoes that fit our feet when our feet are still growing? This final defining criterion of Maltese identity is located beyond the localizable, written beyond language, classified beyond a classifying system that clearly places things here or there. While nationalism is a one-sided narrative, identity is a story that continues to be told, modified, molded, in a succession of never-ending steps.
Still from archival film showing the inauguration of the Workers’ Monument in Msida, Malta, in January 1980. The monument was made by sculptor Anton Agius and commemorates the anniversary of the founding of the General Workers’ Union in Malta. Courtesy PBS, Malta.

Lampuka (Coryphaena hippurus, or common dolphinfish), a popular local fish in Malta that is caught and consumed in the fall. National Museum of Natural History, Mdina, Malta. Courtesy Heritage Malta.
Photo: Alexandra Pace.

Flip flop, tomato paste (known as kunserva in Maltese) and Maltese coat of arms on glass.