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Accepted Paper:

Sediments as foretellers  


João Afonso Baptista (Universidade de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

Deep-sea sediments are much more than matter that settles at the bottom of the ocean. For ocean scientists, they tell stories of the future of the world. I engage in the use of sediments as foretellers and explore the emerging economy of prediction they support.

Paper long abstract:

In the last years, the world has turned to the ocean with apprehension, not only because of its ecological degradation but because of what it “tells.” Terraqueous accumulators of multiple matter, deep-sea sediments embody stories of the world. Ocean scientists claim to access pasts and presents of the Earth by working with marine sediments. Yet such sediments are more than material archives, registers of what has already happened: they also foretell the Earth’s future. Indeed, for ocean scientists, deep-sea sediments work as a sort of “crystal ball” that reveals the world to come. This coincides with the rise of a new powerful culture and economy of prediction that converts the future into a rational instrument of modern authority. I explore the relationship between (1) sedimentation as a more-than-human terraqueous process of stories’ creation and (2) the scientific use of sediments as foretellers to moralize intervention in the present.

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