Putting Blue Humanities scholarship in critical dialogue with recent research on the ‘cultural fix’ and ‘fixed-labour-power’, this article offers a comparative reading of two Portuguese-language novels in which the figure of the female water-spirit features as an index for two contrasting modes of knowing the ocean. In Jorge Amado’s Mar Morto
(1936), the water-spirit is registered as a passive and incomprehensible extra-human entity that looms over the poverty of the text’s working-class community of dockworkers with an ominous and mysterious edge. By contrast, the water-spirit in Pepetela’s novel O Desejo de Kianda
(1995) is angry, active and only too immediate, seeking revenge for the extractivist violence carried out in the name of neoliberalism. Activating a broadly hydro-materialist framework, I argue that these differing conceptions of the water-spirit carry with them very different socio-ecological implications, and directly intersect with contemporary debates over hydrological crisis, the privatisation of the oceans and the enclosure of the water commons.
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