Rethinking Territories: Oceans, Islands, and Geopolitics in Antarctica, the Caribbean, and the Pacific

AHA Session 216
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
John Soluri, Carnegie Mellon University
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel explores the role of maritime environments in both constituting and contesting the boundaries of empires and nation-states in sub-Antarctic, Caribbean, and Pacific waters in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Collectively, the three papers examine how diverse human actors used the sea creatures (turtles and whales) and geological structures (valleys and mountains) that lay beneath the water both to define and contest geopolitical boundaries. In so doing, the panel seeks to challenge the “continental” categories (e.g., Asia, Latin America, etc.) that continue to play a central role in defining historical subfields and constraining conversations among historians.

In focusing on the histories of whaling and empire building in Japan; sea turtle hunting and nation-state formation in the Caribbean; and scientific geo-ontologies in Argentina and Chile that imagined a “Latin” Antarctica, the three papers that make up the panel highlight the work of non-state actors, including sailors, fishers, and scientists, and the mobility of marine animals, in shaping territory. The papers’ chronological and thematic overlaps offer multiple entry points for discussions of connected and comparative dimensions of a "rematerialized" approach to geopolitics. The panel should interest scholars with interests in maritime history, environmental history, geopolitical history, labor history, history of science, and borderlands, empires and transnational histories.

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