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Contact zones : multispecies scholarship through 'imperial eyes'.

Wilson, Helen F. (2019) 'Contact zones : multispecies scholarship through 'imperial eyes'.', Environment and planning E : nature and space., 2 (4). pp. 712-731.


The contact zone is described as the space of imperial encounter. Against a backdrop of work that has used Mary Louise Pratt's concept of the contact zone to examine culture-making, and destabilize normative understandings of division, distinction, and bordering, the paper interrogates the value of utilizing the concept in multispecies contexts. To do so, the paper considers the relationship between the contact zone and the concept of encounter, noting how they overlap and depart as approaches to questioning embodied difference, colonial histories, and immanent potential. Turning to the BBC documentary series Blue Planet II, the paper uses the concept of the contact zone and discourse analysis to examine its dominant ideas, frontiers of difference, and the means through which alternative geographies are both foreclosed and enabled. It demonstrates how the concept of the contact zone can draw attention to the ocean as the documentary's site of production, where different forms of knowledge, technology, people, elements, and non-human life grapple with each other in conditions of uneven power. In moving between narrative and oceanic contact zones, the paper raises questions about practices of knowledge-making, uneven structures of power, and decipherability, to demonstrate what can be gained from staying with the postcolonial framing of the contact zone as a critical tool of analysis in multispecies scholarship.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:Wilson, Helen F. (2019). Contact zones: Multispecies scholarship through 'Imperial Eyes'. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 2(4): 712-731. Copyright © 2019. The Author(s) DOI: 10.1177/2514848619862191
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:17 June 2019
Date of first online publication:25 July 2019
Date first made open access:17 June 2019

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