Special Issue "World Literature and the Blue Humanities"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 September 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Alexandra Campbell
Website
Guest Editor
University of Edinburgh
Interests: World Literature; World-Ecology; Ecopoetics; Environmental Humanities; Blue Humanities; Critical Ocean Studies; World-Ocean; Contemporary Scottish Literature; Petroculture, Postcolonial Studies
Dr. Michael Paye
Website
Guest Editor
University of Warwick
Interests: World Literature; World-ecology; Environmental Humanities; Blue Humanities; Critical Ocean Studies; World-Ocean; Petroculture; Postcolonial Studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue invites interested scholars to examine the manifold relationships between the burgeoning research area of the ‘Blue Humanities’ and world literature perspectives. Scholars from a variety of backgrounds have demonstrated how the world’s oceans challenge dominant epistemologies (Steinberg 2013; DeLoughrey 2017), demanding new approaches that are both contingent and interdisciplinary. In their manifesto, Our Mother Ocean (2014), Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Monica Chilese detail how large segments of the seawaters of this planet have been privatized and toxified, driving ocean-going life forms (both human and non-human) to extinction or relocation. Fisherpeople have become frustrated with unfair tariffs and quotas, while militarization, “ultradeep drilling” (Lemenager 2014), and the global Blue Revolution have led to myriad regional crises, indicative of a systemic dynamic of dispossession and extractivism playing out on the oceans. In response, coastal communities across the Global North and South are forming new alliances and modes of resistance against the expropriative and appropriate ethos of capitalism (Nixon 2011; Dalla Costa and Chilese 2014; O’Domhnaill 2016). Yet as Rachel Price suggests, Blue Studies perspectives must move beyond merely lamenting ‘deep sea trawling or narrating how the oceans were once free and are now militarized and carved up to facilitate global expansion, since doing so… unintentionally reinforces…the ineluctability of capitalism’s reign’ (Price 2017). To this end we are interested in contributions that seek to cultivate new ‘sea ontologies’ (DeLoughrey 2017) that look beyond the global capitalist order to alternative ways of thinking the ocean.

With many major Blue Studies having focussed on pre-modern and early modern periods, including important works by Margaret Cohen and Steven Mentz, we seek contributions that analyse twentieth-century and contemporary literatures, media, and movements. We seek responses to complex questions: How do representations of coastal pollution, extractivism, or labour mediate environmental crisis? What forms of alliance, both human and non-human, do literary texts enable us to imagine in the face of an anthropocenic endgame? How does the tragedy of the oceanic commons intersect with issues of social justice, gender and race? How might an ‘aesthetics of the oceans’ enable literary and cultural works to imagine ‘the oceans before, after, and aside from capitalism’ (Price 2017)? In what ways does the imaginative work of world literary texts disrupt and suspend the neo-imperial dynamics of ‘ocean grabbing’? We are particularly interested in contributions that are methodologically aligned to world literary approaches, studies of neo-imperialism, postcolonialism, extractivism, and world-ecology.

This Special Issue is attached to a two day research symposium on 5-6Th July 2019 at the University of Warwick to which we invite potential special issue contributors to present early drafts of their work. (Please note: We also welcome submissions from colleagues who wish to contribute articles but may be unable to attend the Symposium). This symposium seeks to bring together academics who wish to analyse the above dynamics from a literary and cultural perspective. This symposium is split into two connected events. Day 1 will consist of short ‘pitching’ sessions, with contributors being asked to deliver concise 5–10-minute presentations on their research. The shorter paper length is designed to allow for sufficient space for panelists to workshop new methodologies or material, and to receive generative feedback from a specialist audience. The core questions and ideas developed across Day 1 sessions will feed into the ensuing scoping event on Day 2. Day 2 will bring together like-minded academics whose works address environmental concerns but who do not hold a shared research agenda, in order to collectively debate what is meant by the term Blue Humanities and to establish a coherent working group, the Blue Humanities Network. We envision this network will subsequently go on to promote the Blue Humanities and act as a catalyst for bringing researchers from many disciplines into the topic. To this end we seek contributions (of around 6-8000 words) that address themes and issues such as:

  • water privatization, from rivers to oceans
  • challenging the frontier mentality
  • gender, race, and oceanic meanings
  • oceanic commons/ hydrocommons
  • extractivism, consumption, and logistics
  • petroculture and oceanic criticism
  • world-ecology theory and the ocean
  • world literature and the oceans

Please submit a 300-word abstract and short bio to [email protected] and [email protected] by 31 March 2019. Please specify whether you would like your abstract to be considered for inclusion within the Symposium and/or Special Issue. Successful applicants will be notified soon after April 19. The Symposium will take place 5-6 July 2019 with Papers for the special issue of Humanities due 1 September 2019.

Dr. Alexandra Campbell
Dr. Michael Paye
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • World Literature
  • World-ecology
  • World-ocean
  • Critical Ocean Studies
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Blue Humanities
  • 20th /21st Century Literature and Culture

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Water Enclosure and World-Literature: New Perspectives on Hydro-Power and World-Ecology
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030106 - 08 Sep 2020
Abstract
This editorial introduces the special issue, ‘World Literature and the Blue Humanities’. The authors articulate the commonalities and tensions between world literature, world-ecology, blue humanities, and hydrocultural approaches. Taking megadams, water pollution, and the blue revolution as baselines, we offer short analyses of [...] Read more.
This editorial introduces the special issue, ‘World Literature and the Blue Humanities’. The authors articulate the commonalities and tensions between world literature, world-ecology, blue humanities, and hydrocultural approaches. Taking megadams, water pollution, and the blue revolution as baselines, we offer short analyses of works by Namwali Serpell, Craig Santos Perez, Jean Arasanayagam, Paul Greengrass, Wyl Menmuir, and Emily St. John Mandel in order to articulate how culture can both contest and normalize water enclosure. The piece ends with a brief summary of the contributions to the special issue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Open AccessArticle
“The One Who Comes from the Sea”: Marine Crisis and the New Oceanic Weird in Rita Indiana’s La mucama de Omicunlé (2015)
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030086 - 19 Aug 2020
Abstract
Caribbean literature is permeated by submarine aesthetics registering the environmental histories of colonialism and capitalism. In this essay, we contribute to the emergent discipline of critical ocean studies by delineating the contours of the “Oceanic Weird”. We begin with a brief survey of [...] Read more.
Caribbean literature is permeated by submarine aesthetics registering the environmental histories of colonialism and capitalism. In this essay, we contribute to the emergent discipline of critical ocean studies by delineating the contours of the “Oceanic Weird”. We begin with a brief survey of Old Weird tales by authors such as William Hope Hodgson and, most famously, H.P. Lovecraft, who were writing in the context of a world still dominated by European colonialism, but increasingly reshaped by an emergent US imperialism. We explore how these tales are both ecophobic and racialized, teeming with fears of deep geological time and the alterity of both nonhuman life and non-European civilizations, and argue that they register the oil-fuelled, militarised emergence of US imperial naval dominance. Subsequently, we turn to Rita Indiana’s neo-Lovecraftian novel, La mucama de Omicunlé [Tentacle, trans. Achy Obejas 2019], set in the Dominican Republic, as a key example of the contemporary efflorescence of ecocritical New Weird Caribbean fiction. We explore how the novel refashions Oceanic Weird tropes to represent the intertwining of marine ecological crisis in an era of global climate emergency with forms of oppression rooted in hierarchies of gender, sexuality, race, and class. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
Dry Country, Wet City: A World-Ecological Reading of Drought in Thea Astley’s Drylands
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 79; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030079 - 11 Aug 2020
Abstract
Using a postcolonial and world-ecological framework, this article analyses the representation of water as an energy source in Thea Astley’s last and most critically acclaimed novel Drylands (1999). As environmental historians have argued, the colonial, and later capitalist, settlement of Australia, particularly the [...] Read more.
Using a postcolonial and world-ecological framework, this article analyses the representation of water as an energy source in Thea Astley’s last and most critically acclaimed novel Drylands (1999). As environmental historians have argued, the colonial, and later capitalist, settlement of Australia, particularly the arid interior, was dependent on securing freshwater sources—a historical process that showed little regard for ecological impact or water justice until recent times. Drylands’ engagement with this history will be considered in relation to Michael Cathcart’s concept of ‘water dreaming’ (2010): the way in which water became reimagined after colonization to signify the prospect of economic growth and the consolidation of settler belonging. Drylands self-consciously incorporates predominant modes of ‘water dreaming’ into its narrative, yet resists reducing water to a passive resource. This happens on the level of both content and form: while its theme of drought-induced migration is critical of the past, present, and future social and ecological effects of the reckless extraction of freshwater, its nonlinear plot and hybrid form as a montage of short stories work to undermine the dominant anthropocentric colonial narratives that underline technocratic water cultivation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
The Water Wars Novel
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030076 - 05 Aug 2020
Abstract
‘Water wars’ are back. Conflicts in Syrian, Yemen and Israel/Palestine are regularly framed as motivated by water and presented as harbingers of a world to come. The return of ‘water wars’ rhetoric, long after its 1990s heyday, has been paralleled by an increasing [...] Read more.
‘Water wars’ are back. Conflicts in Syrian, Yemen and Israel/Palestine are regularly framed as motivated by water and presented as harbingers of a world to come. The return of ‘water wars’ rhetoric, long after its 1990s heyday, has been paralleled by an increasing interest among novelists in water as a cause of conflict. This literature has been under-explored in existing work in the Blue Humanities, while scholarship on cli-fi has focused on scenarios of too much water, rather than not enough. In this article I catalogue key features of what I call the ‘water wars novel’, surveying works by Paolo Bacigalupi, Sarnath Banerjee, Varda Burstyn, Assaf Gavron, Emmi Itäranta, Karen Jayes and Cameron Stracher, writing from the United States, India, Canada, Israel, Finland and South Africa. I identify the water wars novel as a distinctive and increasingly prominent mode of ‘cli-fi’ that reveals and obscures important dimensions of water crises of the past, present and future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
Blue Sublime and the Time of Capital
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030073 - 04 Aug 2020
Abstract
This essay proposes a concept of the “blue sublime” in order to address how the contradictions of capitalist accumulation regimes manifest themselves in the hydrosphere. My argument starts from the fact that capitalism entails a shift in the imagination of the sea: from [...] Read more.
This essay proposes a concept of the “blue sublime” in order to address how the contradictions of capitalist accumulation regimes manifest themselves in the hydrosphere. My argument starts from the fact that capitalism entails a shift in the imagination of the sea: from the point of view of commodity production and consumption, the sea has turned into field of extraction, resource to be exploited or waste disposal site. But capitalism also involves circulation, which casts the sea into a space of contradictions. On the one hand, the oceanic expanse can be an image for the flow of capital and commodities, and a privileged route that has been central to the mercantile expansion of the world economy. On the other hand, however, the sea can become the emblem of the limit to accumulation, and the ultimate barrier to capital’s self-expansion. The blue sublime, hence, provides an image for picturing the totality of capitalism, while in its materiality it embodies capitalism’s contingency and perishability. From this point of view, the blue sublime registers a process described by Marx as the “annihilation of space by time” proper to the universalizing tendency of capital. Through a reading of Marx’s Grundrisse, the blue sublime hence provides a tangible representation of the asymptotic tendency of capital to reach a zero time of circulation and a privileged location to grasp the material contradictions of a global modernity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
The Blue Cultural Fix: Water-Spirits and World-Ecology in Jorge Amado’s Mar Morto and Pepetela’s O Desejo de Kianda
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030072 - 03 Aug 2020
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
Offshore Mysteries, Narrative Infrastructure: Oil, Noir, and the World-Ocean
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030071 - 03 Aug 2020
Abstract
Situated within debates of world literature, petrocultures, and the blue humanities, this article provides a methodological approach to interpreting genre, energy forms, and world-literature. This relies on Dominic Boyer’s concept of ‘energopolitics’ (adapted from Foucault’s biopolitics), which considers the codependence of political power, [...] Read more.
Situated within debates of world literature, petrocultures, and the blue humanities, this article provides a methodological approach to interpreting genre, energy forms, and world-literature. This relies on Dominic Boyer’s concept of ‘energopolitics’ (adapted from Foucault’s biopolitics), which considers the codependence of political power, electricity, fuel and energy infrastructure. Echoing Fredric Jameson (1981) and Patricia Yaeger (2011), the article argues that looking for a text’s ‘energopolitical unconscious’ is a means of discerning the way energopolitics and energy are encoded in world-literary plot, form, and genre. Then, it turns to a comparative reading of two novels, Carlos Fuentes’s The Hydra Head (1978) and Ian Rankin’s Black & Blue (1997), to argue that such novels provide an understanding of relationships between world-literary genre, forms of energy, and the world-oceanic regime of the offshore. The offshore is a juridical-spatial regime that circumvents nation-state regulation through extraterritorial ownership practices. It is a political and infrastructural power over the oceanic flows of capital and energy, to produce a spatial environment that exceeds the juridical boundaries of nation-states. Thus, if the world-ocean is the space upon which fossil capital depends for its realisation, the offshore is the legal form of fossil capital in the world-ocean. Finally, the article argues that noir mysteries are the genre of the offshore, as it is a genre particularly capable of indexing its social tensions. Noir’s settings and atmospheres are intimately connected with petromodernity’s infrastructure: hotels, highways, flickering streetlights and eerie hinterlands, ports and warehouses; the mystery is an excellent formal device, providing both narratorial motivation and a code for traversing imagined territories and detecting their secrets. At the same time, noir’s generic investment in investigations of legality and power—its ‘legal grammar’—makes it a useful stage through which to pursue questions of sovereignty, ocean-space, territory, and juridical forms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
The View from the Sea: The Power of a Blue Comparative Literature
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 68; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030068 - 22 Jul 2020
Abstract
This paper advocates for a blue comparative literature that uses the view from the sea to provide new axes for comparison. Roy Jacobsen’s De usynlige (The Unseen, 2013) and Sarah Moss’s Night Waking (2011) explore subsistence lives on small islands in [...] Read more.
This paper advocates for a blue comparative literature that uses the view from the sea to provide new axes for comparison. Roy Jacobsen’s De usynlige (The Unseen, 2013) and Sarah Moss’s Night Waking (2011) explore subsistence lives on small islands in the northern Atlantic at different moments in the past, when inhabitants were dependent on the sea for food and transport. By looking at them together, as texts linked by their engagement with the physical world of the northern Atlantic, the two novels show how marginal populations on small islands can represent a space for the imagination of the human past and future in the Anthropocene. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
Learning an Inclusive Blue Humanities: Oceania and Academia through the Lens of Cinema
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030067 - 22 Jul 2020
Abstract
Hollywood films such as Pixar’s Moana (2016) and Warner Brothers’ Aquaman (2018) have drawn on the aesthetics and stories of the island cultures of Oceania to inform their narratives. In doing so, these works have both succeeded and failed to respect and engage [...] Read more.
Hollywood films such as Pixar’s Moana (2016) and Warner Brothers’ Aquaman (2018) have drawn on the aesthetics and stories of the island cultures of Oceania to inform their narratives. In doing so, these works have both succeeded and failed to respect and engage with oceanic cultural knowledge, providing a cultural vehicle to expand communication, while also exploiting Oceanic culture for financial gain. Cultural tropes and stereotypes pose a heavy intellectual burden that neither film fully shoulders, nor are the complexities of their content acknowledged. Moana sought to enlarge the franchise of the “Disney Princess” genre, but could not avoid issues of cultural appropriation and tokenism becoming entangled with an ongoing process of engagement. Moana’s desire to represent the cultural memory of Oceania raises questions, but while Pixar presents digital fantasy, Aquaman hides its global ambitions beneath star Jason Momoa’s broad shoulders. If the blue humanities is to follow the seminal postcolonial scholarship of Tongan and Fijian cultural theorist Epeli Hau’ofa by exploring a counter-hegemonic narrative in scholarly treatment of the global oceans, then how can it respond with respect? This risk applies equally to academic literary inquiry, with a more inclusive mode of receptive and plural blue humanities as an emerging response. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
Open AccessArticle
“The Ocean in Us”: Navigating the Blue Humanities and Diasporic Chamoru Poetry
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030066 - 20 Jul 2020
Abstract
This essay will explore the complex relationship between Pacific Islander Literature and the “Blue Humanities,” navigation traditions and canoe aesthetics, and Chamoru migration and diaspora. First, I will chart the history, theory, and praxis of Pacific voyaging traditions; the colonial history of restricting [...] Read more.
This essay will explore the complex relationship between Pacific Islander Literature and the “Blue Humanities,” navigation traditions and canoe aesthetics, and Chamoru migration and diaspora. First, I will chart the history, theory, and praxis of Pacific voyaging traditions; the colonial history of restricting indigenous mobilities; and the decolonial acts of seafaring revitalization in the Pacific (with a specific focus on Guam). Then, I will examine the representation of seafaring and the ocean-going vessel (the canoe) as powerful symbols of Pacific migration and diasporic cultural identity in the context of what Elizabeth DeLoughrey termed, “narrative maritime legacies” (2007). Lastly, I will conduct a close-reading of the avant-garde poetry collection, A Bell Made of Stones (2013), by Chamoru writer Lehua Taitano. As I will show, Taitano writes about the ocean and navigation in order to address the history and traumas of Chamoru migration and diaspora. In terms of poetic form, I will argue that Taitano’s experimentation with typography and visual poetry embodies Chamoru outrigger design aesthetics and navigational techniques. In the end, I will show how a “Blue Humanities” approach to reading Pacific Islander literature highlights how the “New Oceania” is a profound space of Pacific migration and diasporic identity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue World Literature and the Blue Humanities)
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