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MARINFORSK-Marine ressurser og miljø

Maritime Modernities: Formats of Oceanic Knowledge

Alternative title: Maritime moderniteter: Havets kunnskapsformater

Awarded: NOK 11.7 mill.

Lack of scientific knowledge and environmental awareness in the past is often blamed for the life-threatening ecological crises facing the oceans today. How can a historical approach provide a deeper understanding of the dynamics of knowledge, environmental awareness and the cycle of decline in ocean health? Maritime Modernities. Formats of Oceanic Knowledge (MaMo) investigates the history of knowledge and environmental awareness in, around, and beyond the Atlantic Ocean, from the expansion of human activities at sea in the seventeenth century until today’s global initiatives to aggregate knowledge about the oceans’ resources, ecology and impact on climate. An international and interdisciplinary group of researchers explores how different forms of knowledge about the sea have been collected, organized and transported during the last 400 years, beyond and across knowledge practices and scientific disciplines, as well as public and private institutions. We investigate how maritime activities have been entangled with knowledge processes, shaping how oceans have been perceived, used, and regulated over time. The project studies historical collections of maritime material, such as logbooks, drafts and tide tables, in private and public archives, mainly in France, England, and Norway. These allow us to identify three “formats of oceanic knowledge”; records, maps and models. MaMo follows these formats through time and space, studying how they underpin the use and perception of the oceans, even today. Furthermore, we study how the three formats have enabled and impeded awareness and care for the maritime environment, even before the current environmentalist discourses. MaMo aims to historicize the understanding of the current critical state of the oceans. It also aims to offer new methodological and theoretical perspectives to scholarly fields such as maritime history, history of science and technology, history of knowledge, environmental history and “blue humanities”.

Maritime Modernities (MaMo) is a pioneering historical research project that combines novel theoretical and empirical approaches to investigate the history of knowledge and environmental awareness in, around and beyond the Atlantic Ocean from 1600 until today. As evidence mounts that maritime ecologies are facing life-threatening crises following the expansion of human activities at sea, this project approaches these crises from the sea and through history, by attending to the plurality of knowledges and institutions that underpin many maritime activities. The international and interdisciplinary project will study how “formats of oceanic knowledge” such as records, maps and models have inscribed, arranged and transported knowledges of the seas. Using under-explored private and public archives, we aim at revealing how the formats of records, maps and models over four centuries have shaped how oceans have been used and perceived, and to what extent they have encouraged excessive exploitation of resources. We will study how these three epistemic formats have conditioned "environmental reflexivity". By investigating the historical relationships between environmental reflexivity and the processes that nevertheless have transformed the oceans into environments of ecological crises, this project directs attention to crises “in-the-making” and their historical and epistemological underpinnings. Hence, the project ambitiously aims at adding to the agenda of “ocean literacy” highlighted in recent UN and EU initiatives.

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Funding scheme:

MARINFORSK-Marine ressurser og miljø