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Wet Ontologies, Fluid Spaces: Giving Depth to Volume through Oceanic Thinking

Steinberg, P.; Peters, K.

Wet Ontologies, Fluid Spaces: Giving Depth to Volume through Oceanic Thinking Thumbnail


K. Peters


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.


Steinberg, P., & Peters, K. (2015). Wet Ontologies, Fluid Spaces: Giving Depth to Volume through Oceanic Thinking. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(2), 247-264.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 9, 2015
Online Publication Date Apr 1, 2015
Publication Date May 1, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 13, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 9, 2016
Journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Print ISSN 0263-7758
Electronic ISSN 1472-3433
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 247-264
Keywords Depth, Liquid, Ocean, Sea, Volume, Water.


Accepted Journal Article (402 Kb)

Copyright 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.

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