Oceans on Fire: Elemental Spectacles of the Anthropocene
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In the summer of 2021, a gas pipeline fire in the Gulf of Mexico made national headlines with the phrase, "Ocean on Fire." The apocalyptic image of a ring of flames on the surface of the ocean quickly became a symbol of the climate crisis as it made the rounds on social media and into memes. In recent years, elemental ecocriticism has offered generative pathways into thinking about human intimacies with the material world. Yet, there is still a tendency to focus on one element at a time—on water, air, fire, or mineral as individuated objects of history and human relation. Responding to the conference’s provocation of a “roof on fire,” this panel aims to think through what it would mean to consider the intermingling of elements in contemporary spectacles of the Anthropocene, and in particular, the recruitment of aquatic spaces into what Stephen Pyne has termed “the Pyrocene.” In keeping with the conference call, we encourage participants to consider the knowledges and cultures that are sidelined and/or taken for granted, as well as coastal communities impacted by environmental crisis.

This panel welcomes papers from anthropology, film and media studies, history, literature, and other interdisciplinary approaches to the hydro-(and pyro) humanities. Papers may include but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Ocean warming
  • Thermal pollution
  • “The Blob” and other marine heatwaves
  • Hydrothermal vents
  • Pipeline struggles and petrocultures
  • Toxic leaks and plumes
  • Oil spills
  • Declining fish stocks, coral bleaching, and other wildlife impacts
  • Ocean sustainability
  • Aquatic films and mediamaking
  • Mapping, modeling, and scientific visualizations of heat
  • The ocean as a heat sink
  • The use of ocean dramas as metaphors for global catastrophe

Prospective panelists should submit an abstract and bio to Lisa Han at lyhan@asu.edu. Proposals will be accepted until January 23, 2022

Current contributors: 
Lisa Han
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