Rising sea levels require new styles of oceanic research and writing in the humanities, that speak simultaneously to environmental and decolonial themes.
Much oceanic research focuses on the surface of the ocean, tracing movements of people, ideas and objects. But an oceanic humanities equal to the present must engage with both human and non-human aspects of the ocean, with the depth and the surface of the seas. It should decolonize the histories of oceanic space, while providing new approaches to aesthetic understandings of water. This project proposes a research agenda that can combine critical oceanic studies with postcolonial theorizations of the seas to evolve an oceanic humanities appropriate to the global south.
The project is a collaborative exercise in placing different kinds of knowledge in proximity – about art, oceans and the south – and developing the ideas that emerge. The aim is to produce excellent research that is creative and synthetic, to develop a capacity for wider engagement through public humanities work, and to embrace an embodied research practice. The project comprises researchers based at the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of the Western Cape; international partners from Mozambique, Mauritius, India, Jamaica and Barbados; associate members; and graduate students.
Oceanic Humanities for the Global South is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the South African National Research Foundation and National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
SOUTHERN OCEANIC HUMANITIES
This project considers representations of the Southern Ocean, south Atlantic,
Indian Ocean, with their islands, ships and research bases.
Taking an inter- and transdisciplinary approach, it aims to examine the small but significant body of literary work on the sub-Antarctic islands, the extensive visual and textual record of Antarctica, and to apply humanistic approaches to other forms of scientific and cultural production related to the region. Literature of the region includes Yvette Christiansë’s poetry and fiction, colonial-era representations in the fiction of writers such as H. Rider Haggard and Joseph Conrad, as well as the work of Marguerite Poland, J. M. Ledgard and Zakes Mda. Visual culture includes records from the SANAP Antarctic Legacy of South Africa (ALSA) database, media images, and new creative-critical photographic and video work to be produced as part of this project. Taking a humanities-based approach to literature and visual culture of the Southern Ocean region, it also aims to produce a Southern perspective on the oceanic humanities more widely.
A project funded by National Research Foundation as part of the South African National Antarctic Programme, 2018-2020
LITERARY ECOLOGIES OF THE INDIAN OCEAN WORLD: MAURITIAN AND SOUTHERN AFRICAN INTERSECTIONS
This workshop seeks to structure an inter-regional conversation between Mauritian and southern African oceanic literary traditions. Working within a framework of literary ecologies, the workshop aims to examine historical, aesthetic and environmental themes from a global south perspective. The focus on southern Africa and Mauritius highlights two historically inter-related regions within the Indian Ocean world but which are seldom brought into conversation.
The project draws on recent work from oceanic literary scholars that pioneers a post-human perspective, utilizing ideas like amphibious aesthetics; littoral form; monsoon assemblages; heavy waters; hydropoetics; underwater aesthetics; trans-corporeality; and sea ontologies, all concepts that push us closer to a material engagement with water.
The workshop, which takes place in August 2018, is funded by the South African National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).