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Imaginaries of (Un)settlement in the Western Atlantic

Fri, March 16, 8:30 to 10:00am, Riverside Convention Center, MR 7

Session Submission Type: Panel


This panel examines the ways that oceanic knowledge shaped the contours of political and economic power in the western Atlantic from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. Although marine environmental history has garnered increasing scholarly attention, much of this work, most notably on fisheries, has examined the human interaction with the material world. Combining environmental history with cultural geography, this panel, conversely, explores the ways oceanic imaginaries shaped imperial ambitions, the production of natural knowledge, and assertions of sovereignty in the coastal zone. In keeping with the conference theme, it reveals how “environmental power” was produced, who controlled it, and how the indeterminate characteristics of oceanic spaces often served to decenter traditional spheres of influence.

All three papers show the extent to which oceanic imaginaries are inextricably connected to environmental realities. Jack Bouchard, a history doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, examines the development of a multinational fishery in Newfoundland between 1497 and 1527. Christopher Pastore, Assistant Professor of History at the State University of New York at Albany, examines the 1692 earthquake that submerged Port Royal, Jamaica, providing a moral geography of oceanic submersion. And Claire Campbell, Associate Professor of History at Bucknell University, asks what does Canada’s national motto that asserts dominion “from sea to sea,” mean in an era of global climate change? Karen Oslund, Associate Professor of History at Towson University and the author of Iceland Imagined, will chair and provide commentary for the panel.

In its interdisciplinary approach, trans-national scope, and wide temporal range, this panel promises to add fresh perspective to the growing body of work in marine environmental history, revealing the extent to which “environmental power” is shaped by the push and pull of the human imagination and the material world.

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