Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Turbulent waters in three parts

Lehman, J.; Steinberg, P.; Johnson, E.R.

Turbulent waters in three parts Thumbnail



While scientific accounts of ocean dynamics draw public attention to the turbulence of earthly matter, the science alone tells a truncated story. The ocean's turbulent materiality is more than material: practices of scientific knowledge and historically embedded meanings and metaphors also constitute how we know, understand, and attempt to govern ocean and land alike. Indeed, planetary ocean science is always located within a history and politics, embedded within Western epistemic structures and tied to extraction and colonialism. Additionally, as ocean ecologies and human food systems are recognized as ever more fragile and as the ocean increasingly is understood as "up for grabs" as a site of investment, extraction, and production, there is much at stake in how and where we locate the turbulence of marine systems. In this essay, we invite turbulence into our writing practices by bringing together three perspectives on the complex relationship between metaphor and materiality with regard to oceanic worlds. Each co-author writes on the ocean from a different perspective: the lines and laws of the ocean (Steinberg); the governance and epistemic cultures of ocean life (Johnson); and practices of marine historical knowledge production (Lehman). Throughout this essay we experiment with bringing those perspectives together to consider how turbulence matters differently when read through different lineages of theory and ocean scholarship: How do legal infrastructures, scientific apparatuses, human histories, and marine lifeforms tell different stories of the ocean and its processes? We further consider how thinking across our different projects might bring to light not only the turbulence of ocean matter, but also practices of knowledge production and meaning as we envision various futures of and with the ocean.


Lehman, J., Steinberg, P., & Johnson, E. (2021). Turbulent waters in three parts. Theory and Event, 24(1), 192-219

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 16, 2020
Online Publication Date Feb 1, 2021
Publication Date 2021-01
Deposit Date Mar 15, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 16, 2021
Journal Theory and Event
Electronic ISSN 1092-311X
Publisher Johns Hopkins University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 1
Pages 192-219
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations