Entangled Elements: Sand & Sea. 4S MSY 2019.

2019 Sammler, K. Entangled Elements: Between Sand & Sea. Society for Social Studies of Science. New Orleans, LA 4–7 Sep.


TITLE: Entangled Elements: Between Sand & Sea

AUTHOR: Katherine Sammler

ABSTRACT: Within the “oceanic turn” in social sciences and humanities, the ocean itself is a multiplicity. Yet, as scholars, we often engage it piecemeal, discussed as the element of water or its waves, other times as a resource of fish, oil, minerals, sand, and increasingly as data, sensing, media. Outside academic discussions, ocean management practices commonly disassemble ocean spaces and ecosystems into disparate parts by sector or jurisdiction. In New Zealand, an ongoing struggle between the federal government and indigenous Maori tribes involves questions not only over offshore resource rights but more fundamentally whether there exists a divide between elements of land and sea. While the government has utilized legal baselines as defined in the U.N. Law of the Sea to nationalize the seabed, tribes have long held a competing whole­of­landscape approach which situates the human and more­than­human within a framework of kinship, extending from mountains to sea. Such disputes reflect broader questions pertinent to theoretical interventions with ocean positioned as element, territory, archive, resource. This paper argues we can recognize tensions between the entangled, indivisible nature of the ocean and specific desires to divide it into distinct, alienable objects and geometries, particularly to distinguish it from land. Many contemporary ocean troubles exhibit such antagonisms — sea level rise submerges coasts, seafloor sediment transformed into island, land­sourced pollutants dissolving into the water. This paper locates continued foreshore disputes in New Zealand within an STS context, informed by Karen Barad’s agential realism and Elizabeth Povinelli’s geontology.


SESSION: Mediated Seas, Elemental Oceans

ORGANIZERS:
Lisa Han, UC Santa Barbara
Kim De Wolff, University of North Texas

As social, technological, and political innovations and interruptions are increasingly imagined as taking place offshore, we are witnessing the advent of a new global awareness—a movement built upon the ocean’s undeniable importance to human futures, whether in its capacity to act as a lifeline or to bring about destruction. STS scholars, anthropologists, media theorists, ecocritics, and other humanists are increasingly participating in this “oceanic turn,” connecting scientific and technological advancements in ocean research and exploration to ecologies of power and livelihood. This panel interrogates oceans of and as media, focusing on the material and semiotic remakings of powerful seascapes. We draw inspiration from scholars such as Stacy Alaimo, Melody Jue, Stefan Helmreich, and others who have emphasized the specificity of thinking through water as a way of conceptualizing human entanglements with environments and technologies. Attending to material forms—of water, plastic, sand; as waves, islands, coastlines—we bring blue humanities work together with an elemental media perspective articulated by scholars such as John Durham Peters and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, to zero in on the agential role of elements like water in constructing human subjectivities and global relations. From the sea surface to the deep sea, plastic pollution to coastal landmaking, we consider, collectively, how media and mediation render oceanic frontiers of knowledge, power, and settlement.

PRESENTERS:

Entangled Elements: Between Sand & Sea. Katherine Sammler, California State University, Maritime

Visualizing the Blue Archive. Lisa Han, UC Santa Barbara

Mediating Coastal Geologies: Earth Moving and Visual Culture in Lagos, Nigeria. Ben Mendelsohn, University of Pennsylvania

Synthetic Frontiers of Mediated Seas. Kim De Wolff, University of California, Merced

The Numberless Waves of the Sea. Stefan Helmreich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

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