Oceanic Mobility, a special issue of JEMCS

deadline for submissions: 
October 1, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

Oceanic Mobility

A special issue of The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

edited by Jane Hwang Degenhardt and Benjamin VanWagoner


The development of London’s early modern commercial influence (1550-1700) was premised in part upon the capacity of merchants, overseas factors, and paramilitary venturers to establish oceanic communities as a universal network. While recent historiography has captured this scale by framing oceanic studies as “global” (Armitage, Bashford, and Sivasundaram) and blue ecocriticism has addressed it by illuminating the sea’s environmental agency (Brayton, Duckert, and Mentz), this special issue of the Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies turns to oceanic forms writ local, to the marginal texts, performances, and objects that were the products of political and commercial networks across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. By attending to local sites and communities, the issue aims to recognize the divergent cultural configurations that emerged as a result of English commerce and colonialism during the early modern period. The issue also seeks to foreground new approaches to the migration of narrative forms, focusing on critical practices that prioritize non-Eurocentric orientations to ocean and empire. Via analyses of prose accounts and performances; objects, images, and maps; and absent, suppressed, or unconventional histories, this issue will explore how the ocean functioned as a dynamic medium for social, economic, and political dispersion.

This issue responds in part to Jyotsna Singh’s encouragement in a previous special issue of JEMCS (Summer 2017) to reconceive of global relationships by shifting our attention to local cultural productions and ways of knowing; it seeks to take new account of well-worn postcolonial questions in the wake of our past decade’s forced migrations, refugee crises, and other forms of diaspora. We encourage essays that consider different forms of oceanic mobility, including representations of migration, displacement, enslavement, and exile, as well as political, cultural, or legal reconfigurations of oceanic spaces and nations. We welcome papers considering the racial implications of oceanic mobility, as well as those proposing new theories and methodologies for reckoning with the gestation of English imperialism, situating their analysis with respect to social networks, political theory, and colonial histories. While we invite considerations of texts across all genres of writing, we take particular interest in studies that expand our archive of oceanic studies by foregrounding non-canonical texts and unfamiliar histories. In this vein, transcriptions of manuscripts, translations, or other forms of access to under-studied texts or cultural productions that prioritize non-English or non-white perspectives on London’s oceanic ventures are welcome. In short, we invite submissions that take the cultural and political history of the early modern ocean in new directions: by pushing theoretical boundaries, by venturing into new geographies, by expanding our archive, or by adopting new interdisciplinary methodologies.

Possible topics might include:

- New approaches to the relationship between the global and the local, including theoretical reflections on oceanic, archipelagic, and colonial space

- Specific cultural histories of oceanic migration, exile, displacement, enslavement, relocation, and diaspora

- Explorations of how oceanic mobility informs constructions of race, including new categories, intersections, communities, and narratives Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies Co-editors: Jane Hwang Degenhardt and Benjamin VanWagoner

- The development in new social spaces/communities of cultural and racial hybridity in port cities, factories, or polities; consideration of spectacles, events, encounters

- Readings attentive to the migration of forms across oceanic spaces and analyze the way they are put to new uses in new political, or cultural contexts

- Literary or historiographic analysis of venturing accounts, e.g. East India or Royal African Companies or typically “non-literary” textual forms

- Intersections of material, legal, and economic cultures, including discussions of commodities, labor, jurisdiction or authority, and commercial policies

- Histories of textual circulation and transmission across under-addressed oceanic spaces and regions

- Reframing early modern postcoloniality: the protocolonial, empire studies, Orientalism, contact zones, early modern Indigenous studies, contemporary (21c) postcolonial theory

Please submit abstracts of 250 words to jemcsoceanicmobility@gmail.com by October 1, 2021. We expect to work with authors on drafts (~6,000 words) starting late January 2022 and to receive final submissions in Spring 2022.

Feel free to get in touch with questions or preliminary ideas at the above email address