World-making through mapping: large marine protected areas and the transformation of the global ocean

Authors: Lisa Campbell*, Duke University
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: ocean governance, conservation, mapping
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Ocean conservation has emerged as a global concern and project in international environmental governance over the past decade, and marine protected areas (MPAs) have been prominent on the ocean conservation agenda. Although MPAs cover less than 8% of global oceans, coverage has expanded 20-fold since 1993. Until 2006, visualizations of this expansion were underwhelming; global maps of MPAs showed thin lines of blue hugging coastlines, barely detectable ‘edges’ of the vast undifferentiated and unprotected global ocean. This began to change when the US established a large MPA (LMPA, defined as >100,000km2) around the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Over the subsequent years, the map of global oceans has been transformed, with currently 33 LMPAs declared at sites around the world. Global maps now reveal a differentiated space where what was once vast and uniform is disrupted by large spaces of conservation, areas dedicated to ‘unmaking’ and ‘remaking’ resources, to deriving value from non-extraction. In this paper, we explore what kind of world-making is performed through global maps of LMPAs and argue that worlds are multiple. While the maps can be read as ‘oceans conserved’, they have also been read differently, e.g. as ‘blue grabs’ or as assertions of sovereignty by small island states re-made large ocean states. In examining the intersections between mapping, performance and world-making, we interrogate the potentials and possibilities associated with alternative readings of the new global ocean.

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