Marine cultural heritage and the frontiers of ocean politics

Authors: Jessica Lehman*, Durham University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Coastal and Marine, Political Geography
Keywords: ocean, governance, postcolonialism, political ecology, Anthropocene, Black geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In a time of deepening inequality and global environmental crisis, marine cultural heritage suggests powerful links between planetary-scale natural environments, hidden narratives of human history, and, as the international seabed is legally defined, "the common heritage of humankind." Thus, marine cultural heritage is an area of emerging international interest for a varied range of actors. Drawing together a diverse set of literatures on marine cultural heritage, marine archaeology, international maritime law, and postcolonial and Black scholarship, I examine the ways in which marine cultural heritage might be understood as a frontier in terms not only of spatial territory, but also for knowledge, governance, and politics. As such, marine cultural heritage may bring the disciplinary practices of maritime archaeology into contact with more radical marine politics of postcolonial, subaltern, and Black scholarship. This analysis thus suggests stakes of marine cultural heritage for different communities, reaching far beyond the sites and objects themselves, and shows why marine cultural heritage is emerging as an urgent and dynamic concern at the present moment. Yet ultimately, whether or not marine cultural heritage is truly a frontier is a question that has different meanings depending on the perspective from which it is asked. These differing perspectives illuminate the changing meaning of ocean space as well as struggles over material and immaterial marine resources, and suggest that the frontier is itself a contested concept.

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