15. Names and naming of oceans and seas as a specific and politically delicate issue

Chairs: Cosimo Palagiano (Sapienza University of Rome, Italy) and Peter Jordan (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria; University of the Free State, South Africa)

Type: in person

Names and naming of oceans and seas are specific for at least four reasons: (1) They refer to unpopulated features. (2) They refer to usually large features, some of which have for this very reason (3) been perceived as geographical entities only rather late in the age of discoveries, through the development of sciences, especially of a geographical world view and its cartographic representation. (4) They only exceptionally refer to features under a single sovereignty and are thus exposed to political conflict. Names of oceans and seas are therefore a mixture of some having emerged from local use and others applied from the outside. Dual and even multiple naming in the narrower sense (not confined to translations) from different coasts is not an exception. Due to the symbolic power of place names in general, names of oceans and seas are sometimes understood as political claims causing conflict. An international authority, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), is in charge of standardizing maritime names for the purpose of international navigation and charts but cannot prevent deviating use in the media and education. The session will be open for papers on all these issues starting from the history of naming across the practical and emotional relation of coastal dwellers to ‘their’ sea as reflected by naming, the question of whether toponomastic terminology applicable to names for features on land (like ‘endonym’ and ‘exonym’) is completely transferable to maritime features or whether additional terms like ‘international name’ or ‘thalassonym’ are needed. The session is to cover also the specific problems of standardizing maritime names as well as name conflicts and their character as indicators of deeper political conflicts, of which names are just the symbolic surface. The session will very likely show that geographical names are also in the case of names of oceans and seas points of convergence of many geographical perspectives.

Keywords: naming history of oceans and seas, relation of coastal dwellers to ‘their’ sea as reflected by naming, toponomastic terminology related to maritime features, standardization of names for maritime features, conflicts on names of oceans and seas