(P22)
Sea theory, atmospheres, and liminality of lives
Location Chancellery Building, A1-129
Date and Start Time 06 Dec, 2018 at 11:15
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Helen Abbott (Australian National University) email
  • Susan Reid (University of Sydney) email
  • Damien Bright (University of Chicago) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

This panel will explore the development of the "ocean turn" and the rise of "critical ocean studies" and "sea theory" in the study of the liminality of lives and atmospheres regulating life and death of maritime spaces.

Long abstract

The Anthropocene is the scientific label given by earth scientists to the current epoch of unprecedented anthropogenic planetary change. The Anthropocene is also a political label designed to call attention to this change and evolving notions of agency and responsibility in contemporary life. The sea is history (Derek Walcott). This panel would like to explore the development of "critical ocean studies" and "sea theory" in the study of liminal lives focused on maritime spaces. In cultural theory, topology has been used to articulate changes in structures and spaces of power. It offers a model for mapping the dynamics of time as well as space, allowing the rigorous description of events, situations, changing cultural formations and social spatializations. Topologies also denote the flux of collective memory in its multiple and mutable incarnations across time where paradoxes of polytemporality, as folded assemblage of linearly distant and sometimes contradictory moments, help make sense of a period of social change. A topology of power allows us to interrogate the practices of ruination. We propose to take Peter Sloterdijk's spherological theory as a starting point, and more particularly his notion of "foam" as an atmopshere regulating life and death. The sea is an archive of migrations, circulations, relations more-than-human... By examining multispecies collaborations, practices and memories of human beings in, beside, with, liquid spaces, we suggest a socio-topological approach to these issues.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Moris ho tasi - living with the sea on Atauro Island, East Timor

Author: Helen Abbott (Australian National University) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

This paper explores what it means to 'live with the sea' on Atauro Island, East Timor, utilising perceptions of danger and belief to show different understandings of human - marine environment relations.

Long abstract

By their own account, Humangili people who live in Makili on the south coast of the island of Ata├║ro in East Timor, 'live with the sea' (moris ho tasi). As with inhabitants of other small islands, the sea is a key domain in which people make a living and a pathway to other islands in their vicinity. Humangili people hold particular embodied knowledge and skill based on their long-term engagement with the sea. While somewhat differentiated by Christian beliefs, this relationship is also mediated by what Paige West has called a 'transactive dialectical relationship' (2005: 632) between human and non-human beings in that exist in this environment. In this context, as per Peter Sloterdijk, the sea is particular 'space of co-existence' in which particular things about being human are revealed. Drawing on the particular ways that Humangili people perceive and engage with the sea, this paper explores how perceptions of danger (death) and belief (life), particularly through actions and speech, mitigate people's relationship with the sea, and things within it. Highlighting different understandings of what it means to be able to master the skills and knowledge necessary to engage with this domain. In doing so, this paper seeks to contribute to broader understandings of what it means for people to 'live with the sea' and human - environment relations

... my carbon other soaks with ocean

Author: Susan Reid (University of Sydney) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

A speculative carbon reckoning and transcorporeal dissolve from the mountainside to the sea.

Long abstract

This presentation hacks into an imaginary of oceanic change that considers transitional relationalities all the way through petro-chem materialities, salty, wet, ocean eddies and speculative carbon bodies.

My speculative carbon finds her way to the enormous circulatory systems that glide, wind and pump their way around the earth, massaging continents, breaking off into meanders, flickering salt tongues and coalescences of upwelling eddy rings. In this conception of transitional materiality the ocean is a co-generating flux of materials arriving, connecting, carrying, and leaving through river mouths, canal outlets, rain freshened surfaces, beneath ice sheets and evaporating skyward; and always in relation with, and through, carbon rich life expressions that at some point are fingerlings and fish eggs, grasslands and forests, winds and storm fronts, plastics and plankton, desert dust and creaturely breaths, street lights and car exhausts.

Note: this is a lyrical theoretical paper based on a presentation given at the 2017 'Hacking the Anthropocene' event, held at the University of Sydney.

Does anything dive? Against diving as method for the Anthropocene

Authors: Roy Kimmey (University of Chicago) email
Damien Bright (University of Chicago) email
Mail All Authors

Short abstract

What makes for a dive? So often, we "dive deep" without heed for what diving itself entails. This paper analyzes the practice of diving through its military, scientific and psychosocial relations. It concludes with a challenge to our tendency to take diving as metaphor for critical practice.

Long abstract

What makes for a deep water dive? A person dons a second skin of foam (body), bites down on the mouthpiece of an aqualung (breath), falls backwards through the water's surface (medium), releases air to achieve neutral buoyancy (balance), and kicks off a countdown to resurfacing (lifetime). This script of a transition from terrestrial to underwater movement sits outside of history, geography and culture. We can ask, for example, what's the dive worth and to whom? That is to say: who goes diving (and why); who owns the gear (and why); how is it used (and why); is the dive safe (and why); who or what is resurfaced (and why)?

These questions interrupt diving as metaphor. So often, we "dive deep" without heed for what diving itself entails. This paper queries the practice of diving, as well as our tendency to assume it operates as shorthand for critical practice.

We begin with a cultural history of diving that articulates its nodes of military/ordinary, industrial/frontier, scientific/touristic, and extraterrestrial/paranormal doings. How does mine clearing relate to coral gardening, or the Cousteau Society seize upon the "underwater commons"? We then put such inappropriate contiguities (Bryld & Lykke 2000) towards a speculative inquiry into the topological qualities of the dive. Diving arranges spacetime, intimacy and collaboration, as well as relations of power and the political in specific ways. These can tell us something, we submit, about living and dying on a planet and as people born of foam (Sloterdijk 2016).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.