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Coastal Waters and Terraqueous Histories of the Pacific

Thu, April 11, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Morrow

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


In recent years, environmental and international historians have recognized that the writing of global history requires close attention to the ecologically diverse, culturally permeable, and politically fraught space where land meets sea. As Alison Bashford observes, “Coastal waters, contiguous zones, territorial seas, fishing zones, continental shelves are all legal geographies made out of terraqueous histories.” This roundtable will explore Bashford’s insight by drawing together historians who specialize in law, sovereignty, and the environment of the coastal Pacific. The presenters will examine thematic and methodological questions arising from their research before opening the discussion with the audience. Jakobina Arch will analyze the porous maritime boundaries of Tokugawa Japan. Despite official bans on overseas travel, coastal commerce and ocean currents drew Japanese sailors and whalers into the Pacific world, undermining government policy and reframing the culture of maritime Japan. Dan Margolies will examine the post-World War II tension in U.S. politics and law between ownership, jurisdiction, and sovereignty in offshore submerged land space. In particular, he will discuss the exercise of imperial jurisdictional authority in the spatialized resource and regulatory regimes of the world ocean. Jason Colby will analyze the shifting human interactions with eastern Pacific gray whales on the continental shelf of North America. The postwar years witnessed the transformation of both human and whale culture, as well as intersections with environmental activism and international diplomacy among the US, Canada, and Mexico. Mary X. Mitchell will explore connections between international legal disputes over nuclear contamination of the Pacific and Islanders' protests over contamination of ancestral atolls and waters. Nuclear contamination troubled relationships between coastal waters and high seas as it exposed the United States’ entwined logics surrounding race, technological harm, and dependency in its international relations.

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