The Ocean and Seas in Geographical Thought

As a contribution to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), we propose to organise a thematic conference of the IGU, focusing the ocean and seas as complex and relational geographical ‘objects’ through a plurality of foci. For centuries, the ocean and seas have been means for connecting people and at the same time separating them, corresponding to different functions through different times and cultures. While the earliest studies were made by maritime nations, and especially with either colonial or military reasons, more recently the emphasis has been on firstly the need to exploit the oceans and secondly on the links with global changes. Hence, these liquid spaces and their pictorial and cartographic representations have been the object of rich studies in the geographical tradition that anticipated some features of current debates on non-state geopolitics, hybridity, and global change, to mention only some of the most often quoted matters in broader disciplinary and transdisciplinary conversations.
Marine complexity and the many uses and users require that all the disciplines within both physical geography and human geography are required to be combined in true interdisciplinary studies. The ocean and seas are social spaces, political spaces, logistical spaces and cultural spaces. Since the early 2000s, the scientific community has renewed its interest in the ocean by focusing also on their educational value: Ocean Literacy means understanding the influence the ocean has on human beings and of human beings on the ocean.
Furthermore, the ocean and seas are at the center of current discussions on the life of the planet, climate change and sustainability. From an economic perspective, the use of ocean resources is one of the most critical challenges that humanity needs to tackle in the coming years. Almost invariably, these issues are intersected by gender and social location. Successfully addressing these issues implies a dialogue between different academic specialties and between scholarship and public policy, including grassroots movements and activism. The seas should not be spaces of exclusion, but help to ensure mobility for all. In particular, there is the need to cover the continuum from ecological structure and functioning, to ecosystem services and then to societal goods and benefits. IGU commissions and task forces have a lot of expertise about wide arrays of maritime issues. This thematic conference aims to put together interventions from all branches of geography and critical thinking on the chosen theme to foster intra and interdisciplinary dialogue on such a large part of the earth’s surface (70%). That is the part of our globe covered with waters, one which geographer Elisée Reclus described as a metaphor of universal human brotherhood, being the grand common basin in which all different individual streams converge. The meeting will especially look for contributions which bring a multidisciplinary approach to the understanding and management of the ocean.

Sessions and papers could be devoted (but not limited) to the following sub-themes (see the conference website for the call):

  • History of Ocean and Seas
  • The Ocean and Diversity
  • Livelihoods and Life in and on the Ocean and the Seas
  • Imaginaries and representations of the Ocean and the Seas
  • Heritage, culture, tourism in coastal and maritime areas
  • Planning and governance of coastal and maritime regions
  • Ocean and Seas: spaces of inclusion and exclusion
  • The climate emergency from a maritime perspective
  • Adaptability and resilience of coastal and maritime areas