Urban Oceans

Authors: Jesse Rodenbiker*, Cornell University
Topics: Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Oceanography
Keywords: Urban, Ocean, Wet Ontologies, More-than-human, Right to the city
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 21
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


I argue that oceanic spaces and ontologies are integral to global processes of urbanization and urban class formation. To make this argument, I draw on historical and contemporary human-environment relations to discuss three ways of conceptualizing the urban in relation to the ocean. I discuss 'ocean natures' extracted for urban uses. Secondly, I consider oceanic spaces as mediums through which labor, capital, and technologies integral to urban life flow. Third, I reconsider the 'right to the city' in relation to urban-oceanic processes of exploitation, extraction, and consumption the result of which predisposes racialized others and non-human beings to premature deaths. Empirically, I discuss the consumption and over-exploitation of oceanic wildlife, as well as trans-oceanic flows of bodies, labor, and technologies. Volumes of oil from whales lubricated industrializing American cities. Trans-oceanic networks and infrastructures supply Totoaba fish maw through Mexico City and U.S. cities for urban upper-class consumption in Hong Kong. Agrarian technologies appropriated through the so-called 'triangular trade,' I contend were techno-political precursors for Euro-American industrial urbanization. Through these examples, I illustrate how the urban is produced through oceanic spaces, natures, and ontologies, as well as some of the disastrous effects of urban-oceanic processes. Human inequalities deepened. Racial capitalism spread. Animal bodies approach(ed) extinction as they materially constitute(d) urban spaces and class distinction. Our urban oceans, I contend, should be otherwise constituted. The conclusion considers uncharted waters for imaginaries and solidarities for an oceanic right to the city through the lenses of global historical urbanization and more-than-human urban-oceanic relation

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