Knowing the Seas as NatureCultures

Associates: Dr. Sven Bergmann (Case study II)
Britta Hamann (Case study I)
Duration: 05/2016 - 04/2019
Financing: funded as an exploratory project within the Excellence Initiative

„Knowing the Seas as NatureCultures: Understanding the role of collaboration, experiment and reflexivity in interdisciplinary marine research and in knowledge practices and material politics with regard to ocean plastics“
How we know oceans and seas and how this knowledge structures the relations we have to maritime environments is today largely (but not exclusively) patterned by scientific knowledge. Analysing how such knowledge is produced, negotiated, translated, and criticised and how it can contribute to new ways of living with oceans and seas therefore becomes a key priority.

This exploratory project aims at better understanding current ways of knowledge production that focus on oceans and seas not exclusively as a property of the natural or the social and cultural sciences alone, but as human-environment-systems or natural-cultural entanglements. We conduct two separate but interconnected ethnographic case studies, each choosing a specific entry point into the problem.
Case study I
“Interdisciplinary knowledge practices in marine research (working title)” focuses on and compares ongoing interdisciplinary projects of marine research in Bremen and Lower Saxony that in different ways work across the nature-culture divide.
Case Study II is designed as an exploratory and multi-sited investigation supposed to lay the groundwork for a later, more encompassing research proposal. Its focus is on collaborative knowledge production and material politics concerning ocean plastics. Besides „purely academic/scientific“ modes of knowledge production it also focuses on citizen science projects and emerging networks between scientists, environmental activists, policy makers, and the shifting and erratic materialities of plastic in the environment itself.

Both case studies empirically and analytically interrogate the significance and dynamics of collaboration, experimentation and reflexivity in “knowing the seas”. The project will develop a framework for analysing knowledge practices dealing with “naturecultures” and contribute to the emerging field of „blue STS / blue humanities“.

Prof. Dr. Michi Knecht
Institut für Ethnologie und Kulturwissenschaft (IFEK)
Universität Bremen
Enrique-Schmidt-Straße 7
28359 Bremen