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Sea Changes: Historicizing the Ocean

Klein, Bernhard and Mackenthun, Gesa, eds. (2004) Sea Changes: Historicizing the Ocean. Routledge, New York, 240 pp. ISBN 0-415-94650-6. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:3828)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


This volume brings together historians, anthropologists and literary critics in a common project focused on maritime cultures and the history of the ocean in the modern era. It takes issue with the cultural myth that the ocean is outside and beyond history, that the endless roll of the sea obliterates sequence and temporality, that it necessarily corresponds to something in the human psyche that Freud named the 'oceanic' feeling: 'a sensation of "eternity", a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded' (Civilization and Its Discontents). The essays in this volume suggest a different perspective. They do not bear out traditional readings of the ocean as a cultural and historical void, traversed, circumnavigated, and fought over, but rarely inscribed other than symbolically by the self-proclaimed agents of civilization. Rather, taking their cue from contemporary debates about globalization, transculturation, transnationality, contact zones, the multiplicity and non-synchronicity of cultures and histories, the contributors to Sea Changes are united in their view that the ocean itself needs to be analyzed as a deeply historical location whose transformative power is not merely psychological or metaphorical - as its use as a literary motif would suggest - but material and real. The sea, whether as the Black Atlantic, the quasi-arcadian Pacific, or the Mediterranean omphalos, has been the site of radical changes in human lives and national histories: it has been an agent of colonial oppression but also of indigenous resistance and native empowerment, a site of loss, dispersal, and enforced migration but also of new forms of solidarity and affective kinship, a paradigm of modern capitalism but also of its creative reinterpretation, a figure of death but also of life. It has been crossed by vessels of discovery, by immigrant ships, slave ships, pirates, merchant ships, warships, and notorious pleasure steamers, many of which have left their mark on the bottom of the sea but which have also - and more importantly - decisively shaped human history. It is these diverse histories - national and international, individual and collective - of oceanic spaces which the book seeks to recuperate, set into critical contrast with each other, and thus put on the agenda of 'world history'.

Item Type: Edited book
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D203 Modern History, 1453-
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Bernhard Klein
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2008 17:25 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 09:42 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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