Mapping the Blue Humanities: World Literature and the Blue Humanities

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
University of Warwick

Scholars from a variety of backgrounds have demonstrated how the world’s oceans challenge dominant epistemologies (Steinberg 2013; DeLoughrey 2017), demanding new approaches that are both contingent and interdisciplinary. In their manifesto, Our Mother Ocean (2014), Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Monica Chilese detail how large segments of the seawaters of this planet have been privatized and toxified, driving ocean-going life forms (both human and non-human) to extinction or relocation. Fisherpeople have become frustrated with unfair tariffs and quotas, while militarization, ‘ultradeep drilling’ (Lemenager 2014), and the global Blue Revolution have led to myriad regional crises, indicative of a systemic dynamic of dispossession and extractivism playing out on the oceans. In response, coastal communities across the Global North and South are forming new alliances and modes of resistance against the expropriative and appropriate ethos of capitalism (Nixon 2011; Dalla Costa and Chilese 2014; O’Domhnaill 2016). Yet as Rachel Price suggests, Blue Studies perspectives must move beyond merely lamenting ‘deep sea trawling or narrating how the oceans were once free and are now militarized and carved up to facilitate global expansion, since doing so… unintentionally reinforces…the ineluctability of capitalism’s reign’ (Price 2017). To this end we are interested in contributions that seek to cultivate new ‘sea ontologies’ (DeLoughrey 2017) that look beyond the global capitalist order to alternative ways of thinking the ocean.

This symposium seeks to bring together academics who wish to analyse the above dynamics and ideas from a literary and cultural perspective. With many major Blue Studies having focussed on pre-modern and early modern periods, including important works by Margaret Cohen and Steven Mentz, we seek contributions that analyse twentieth-century and contemporary literatures, media, and movements. We seek responses to complex questions: How do representations of coastal pollution, extractivism, or labour mediate environmental crisis? What forms of alliance, both human and non-human, do literary texts enable us to imagine in the face of an anthropocenic endgame? How does the tragedy of the oceanic commons intersect with issues of social justice, gender and race? How might an ‘aesthetics of the oceans’ enable literary and cultural works to imagine ‘the oceans before, after, and aside from capitalism’ (Price 2017)? In what ways does the imaginative work of world literary texts disrupt and suspend the neo-imperial dynamics of ‘ocean grabbing’? We are particularly interested in contributions that are methodologically aligned to world literary approaches, studies of neo-imperialism, postcolonialism, extractivism, and world-ecology.

This symposium is split into two connected events. Day 1 will consist of short ‘pitching’ sessions, with contributors being asked to deliver concise 5–10-minute presentations on their research. The shorter paper length is designed to allow for sufficient space for panellists to workshop new methodologies or material, and to receive generative feedback from a specialist audience. The core questions and ideas developed across Day 1 sessions will feed into the ensuing scoping event on Day 2. Day 2 will bring together like-minded academics whose works address environmental concerns but who do not hold a shared research agenda, in order to collectively debate what is meant by the term Blue Humanities and to establish a coherent working group, the Blue Humanities Network. We envision this network will
subsequently go on to promote the Blue Humanities and act as a catalyst for bringing researchers from many disciplines into the topic. The symposium is attached to a peer-reviewed, special issue of Humanities on ‘World Literature and the Blue Humanities’, with full papers due by September 2019. Further details of the special issue can be found here:

Possible topics include:
 water privatization, from rivers to oceans
 challenging the frontier mentality
 gender, race, and oceanic meanings
 oceanic commons/ hydrocommons
 extractivism, consumption, and logistics
 petroculture and oceanic criticism
 world-ecology theory and the ocean
 world literature and the oceans

Please submit a 300-word abstract and short bio to and by 31 March 2019. Please specify whether you would like your abstract to be considered for inclusion in both the symposium and special issue. There are a small number of travel and accommodation bursaries available, so please indicate if you might require a bursary in your email. Successful applicants will be notified soon after April 19. Papers for the special issue of Humanities will be due in September 2019.