December 7, 2017, by Jake Hodder

CFP: “On being at sea: historically experiencing movement across the waves”

On being at sea: historically experiencing movement across the waves

CFP: RGS-IBG Conference, Cardiff August 28-31 2018

Jake Hodder and Stephen Legg, School of Geography, University of Nottingham

A networked conception of space now informs the ways in which geographers consider a host of trans-local historical phenomena, from empires to trading companies, missions to exploration, academic collaborations to anti-colonial solidarities. This has done much to unsettle binaries between east and west or core and periphery, as well as to show how seemingly distinct political units are messily and reciprocally constitutive. Whilst a relational, networked approach has become commonplace, empirical work has tended to focus on the nodes of networks rather than the web of material practices and experiences which connect them.  Whilst these lines of connection have traversed many elements (camel caravans across the desert, subterranean tunnels beneath cities, corridors of flight, or routes across the ice) the largest volume of historical networking has been atop seas and oceans. While abundant data exists on the volumetric extent of this movement (of its cargo, in both human and material terms) less is written about the experience of being at sea or the distinct historical and political implications of sea travel, especially in a period in which trans-oceanic journeys of weeks or months were the dominant means of travel. What did people do on the waves? What friendships or solidarities were forged there? How were class, race, sex and gender hierarchies reproduced or overturned aboard ship (or beneath deck)? We would like to explore these historical experiences but also use them to ask whether we can, now, reproduce the historical experience of being seaborne. Were such journeys ephemeral, and should they remain so? Were such journeys liminal, allowing transgressive practices which we should leave at sea? What sort of method, therefore, should we adopt after casting off, and why? We would welcome papers that explore, but are not confined to, considerations of the experience of:

  • Captive journeys: of convicts, slaves, indentured labourers
  • Subaltern mobility: lascars, coolies, navvies, workers and non-western forms of sea faring
  • Political movement: how did people use boat time to prepare for activity, whether of governing or campaigning
  • Segregated movement: who was allowed to go where and mix with whom upon board
  • Queer experiences: how were anti-heteronormative possibilities offered up?
  • Artistic inspiration: what did people write, paint, photograph at sea?

Please send titles and abstracts of no more than 400 words to by January 10th 2018.

Posted in EventPan-African CongressRound Table Conferences