Ruin Spreads Over the Deep: The Production and Materiality of Ocean Space. AAG LAX 2013.

2013 Sammler, K. Ruin Spreads Over the Deep: The Production and Materiality of Ocean Space. Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles, CA 9–13 Apr.

ABSTRACT: This paper examines how ocean space has been incorporated into the global capitalist system through subsumption under state control and how this incorporation has been successful for exploitation but a failure for management and conservation. The ocean exhibits a nebulous, ephemeral and turbulent materiality, making it difficult to be fully captured and incorporated into a state-building project. Notwithstanding, ocean space has been marked, mapped, categorized and made legible enough for the exploitation of resources. While it may be considered a contested and peripheral region, it is nonetheless a target for state subjugation and organization. One manifestation of the state’s inability to manage or render legible ocean space is the North Pacific Trash Gyre, a collection of debris that travels with prevailing winds with no regard for legal boundaries.This paper considers how emerging spatial theory reorients the way that we conceptualize the material politics of the ocean, while also analyzing Law of the Sea boundaries, specifically in the Exclusive Economic Zone, in relation to the flow of marine debris. Some of the questions I address include: How does statecraft in the Pacific Ocean attempt to transform ocean space into a viable economic resource? Does a capitalist state need to maintain fractal sovereignty and ambiguity to fully exploit the ocean as a location that is both national and international? Is there a conflict between nation-states, the international community, and global capital in the production of such space and its resulting externalities?


Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, $500.