2. Colonial Oceans: Critiquing environmental narratives of ocean governance

Chairs: Liam Saddington (University of Cambridge, UK) and Greta Ferloni (Durham University, UK)

Type: in person

Academic and governance circles have become increasingly attentive to the ocean in recent years. The UN has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) focusing on ocean health, establishing a common framework to ensure ocean science can support sustainable development. Within geography, Steinberg (2017) describes how oceans have received increasing attention since the 1990s, contributing to understandings of globalisation; the role of science, knowledge, and the nonhuman in shaping society; the affective nature of encounters between human and nonhuman; and a zone for thinking through the unstable, voluminous, and wet geophysical underpinnings of the world.
Within this session, we are interested in how ongoing legacies and acts of colonialism shape past, present and future ocean governance. As Benton (2010) argues, particular geographic elements, such as oceans, are symbolically important to imperial pursuits and imaginations of partial and uneven sovereignty under colonialism. Throughout history, ocean spaces have been configured and reconfigured into spaces of control – from trade routes for shipping to strategic straits for naval patrols. Oceans have been imagined and reimagined as spaces to facilitate colonial trade, control and domination – and as spaces of resource for extraction, export and profit. These colonial imaginaries continue to shape contemporary efforts to govern ocean spaces, often propagated by actors from the Global North. However, what do alternative forms of ocean governance consist of? Within this session, we seek to interrogate the intersection of ocean spaces and colonialism in light of increasing awareness of the colonial legacies that underpin oceanic environmental governance.
Papers are welcome on, but not limited to, the subthemes below:
• Decolonial and indigenous ocean geographies.
• The geopolitics of neocolonial ocean governance.
• Contested materialities of ocean/ice/islandscapes.
• Postcolonial geographies of ocean spaces.
• Coloniality of climate change and oceans.

Keywords: decolonialism, postcolonialism, indigenous, oceans, environment