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Wet ontologies, fluid spaces : giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking.

Steinberg, P. and Peters, K. (2015) 'Wet ontologies, fluid spaces : giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking.', Environment and planning D : society and space., 33 (2). pp. 247-264.


This paper expands on recent attempts to destabilise the static, bordered, and linear framings that typify human geographical studies of place, territory, and time. In a world conceptualised as open, immanent, and ever-becoming, scholars have turned away from notions of fixity towards fluidity and flow, and, in so doing, have developed networked, ‘flat’ ontologies. Recent attempts have gone further, challenging the horizontalism inherent in such approaches by opening up a vertical world of volume. In this paper we contend that such approaches are still somewhat lacking. The vertical element of volume is all too often abstract and dematerialised; the emphasis on materiality that is typically used to rectify this excess of abstraction tends to reproduce a sense of matter as fixed and grounded; and the temporality that is employed to reintroduce ‘motion’ to matter has the unintended effect of signalling a periodised sense of time that minimises the chaotic underpinnings and experiences of place. We argue that the ocean is an ideal spatial foundation for addressing these challenges since it is indisputably voluminous, stubbornly material, and unmistakably undergoing continual reformation, and that a ‘wet ontology’ can reinvigorate, redirect, and reshape debates that are all too often restricted by terrestrial limits.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Depth, Liquid, Ocean, Sea, Volume, Water.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:Steinberg, P., Peters, K., 2015. The definitive peer-reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Environment and planning D: society and space, 33(2), 247-264, doi:10.1068/d14148p.
Date accepted:09 March 2015
Date deposited:26 March 2015
Date of first online publication:01 April 2015
Date first made open access:09 March 2016

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