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Blue Legalities: The Life and Laws of the Sea

“Not a minute too early, the ‘blue turn’ finally takes pride of place in legal thinking. Blue Legalities balances the legal and the liquid in all their emanations. The contributions span from the oceanic depths of our planet to the glimmering surface of our limited comprehension, combining in an undeniably poetic whole, law, politics, science, anthropology, history, and philosophy amongst other epistemes. The feat of this book is diving headlong in the fathomless challenge of treating the material and the textual as one ontological ripple.” — Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, author of Spatial Justice: Body, Lawscape, Atmosphere

Blue Legalities: The Life and Laws of the Sea.

Blue Legalities: The Life and Laws of the Sea


Blue Legalities is inspired by the emerging “blue turn” in social sciences and the humanities about oceans and their inhabitants. But as important and comprehensive as this “blue turn” has been, it has yet to substantively and creatively take up questions of ocean law and governance. Specifically, increasing concerns around warming temperatures, increased pollution, sea level rise, ocean acidification, bio-harvesting, and deep-sea and sand mining are driving regulatory changes and raising questions about the nature of territory, sovereignty, and long-established claims in international law. The rapid technological and ecological transformations that have taken place over the last few decades are now altering the ways that the seas are governed, suggesting an urgent need for more critical attention to the laws of the seas, in their broadest and most pluralistic articulations. Blue Legalities offers such an intensified analysis, focusing on the ways in which our political frameworks and legal infrastructures have been made, contested, and are currently being remade in the oceans.

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Book Contributors

Book contributors include Stacy Alaimo, Amy Braun, Irus Braverman, Holly Jean Buck, Jennifer L. Gaynor, Stefan Helmreich, Elizabeth R. Johnson, Stephanie Jones, Zsofia Korosy, Berit Kristoffersen, Jessica Lehman, Astrida Neimanis, Susan Reid, Alison Rieser, Katherine G. Sammler, Astrid Schrader, Kristen L. Shake, and Phil Steinberg.

More about the book

The ocean and its inhabitants sketch and stretch our understandings of law in unexpected ways. Inspired by the blue turn in the social sciences and humanities, Blue Legalities explores how regulatory frameworks and governmental infrastructures are made, reworked, and contested in the oceans. Its interdisciplinary contributors analyze topics that range from militarization and Maori cosmologies to island building in the South China Sea and underwater robotics. Throughout, Blue Legalities illuminates the vast and unusual challenges associated with regulating the turbulent materialities and lives of the sea. Offering much more than an analysis of legal frameworks, the chapters in this volume show how the more-than-human ocean is central to the construction of terrestrial institutions and modes of governance. By thinking with the more-than-human ocean, Blue Legalities questions what we think we know—and what we don’t know—about oceans, our earthly planet, and ourselves.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Blue Legalities: Governing More-Than-Human Oceans / Elizabeth R. Johnson and Irus Braverman  1
1. Solwara 1 and the Sessile Ones / Susan Reid  25
2. Held in Suspense: Mustard Gas Legalities in the Gotland Deep / Astrida Neimanis  45
3. Kauri and the Whale: Oceanic Matter and Meaning in New Zealand / Katherine G. Sammler  63
4. Edges and Flows: Exploring Legal Materialities and Biophysical Politics of Sea Ice / Philip E. Steinberg, Berit Kristoffersen, and Kristen L. Shake  85
5. Liquid Territory, Shifting Sands: Property, Sovereignty, and Space in Southeast Asia's Tristate Maritime Boundary Zone / Jennifer L. Gaynor  107
6. Wave Law / Stefan Helmreich  129
7. Robotic Life in the Deep Sea / Irus Braverman  147
8. The Technopolitics of Ocean Sensing / Jessica Lehman  165
9. The Hydra and the Leviathan: Unmanned Maritime Vehicles and the Militarized Seaspace / Elizabeth R. Johnson  183
10. Clupea Liberum: Hugo Grotius, Free Seas, and the Political  Biology of Herring / Alison Rieser  201
11. Whales and the Colonization of the Pacific Ocean / Zsofia Korosy  219
12. The Sea Wolf and the Sovereign / Stephanie Jones  237
13. Marine Microbiopolitics: Haunted Microbes before the Law / Astrid Schrader  255
14. "Got Algae?": Putting Marine Life to Work for Sustainability / Amy Braun  275
15. "Climate Engineering Doesn't Stop Ocean Acidification": Addressing Harms to Ocean Life in Geoengineering Imaginaries / Holly Jean Buck  295
Afterword. Adequate Imaginaries for Anthropocene Seas / Stacy Alaimo  311
Contributors  327
Index  331