Being Littoral

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This page describes a new book project for 2020-21. This is a book for a different audience than my other current work, embedded in theory and policy rather than speaking directly to a wider readership. I’ve decided, however, to outline its content in detail here, because the more feedback, responses, and suggestions (for alterations to the framework, or for things I ought to read!) I can gather the better. Please feel free to get in touch at d.j.gange@bham.ac.uk or on twitter: @david_gange.  

 

Being Littoral:  Rethinking Atlantic Britain and Ireland

  Being Littoral proposes a radical new vision of British and Irish history by viewing past and present from the perspectives of communities whose experience has diverged wildly from the urban centres through which the island group is usually understood. These are the communities of Atlantic coastlines – Shaetlan, Scots, Gaelic, Irish and Welsh – whose existence has been defined by proximity to ocean and semi-detachment from terrestrial networks of cities, roads and rail.

The book’s primary purpose is to explore the strategies these regions’ activists, scholars, artists and community groups have taken, and can take in future, to challenge narratives that claim to speak for Britain and Ireland but in fact take urban and inland perspectives for granted. Drawing on local archives, print media and oral histories, the voices of these communities are placed front and centre throughout. One purpose of giving explicit statements of these strategies, in the voices of those who have made them, is to increase possibilities for their future development and expansion.

As well as exploring specific coastal histories, Being Littoral intervenes in debates about historical practice and the relationships between university-based historians and public histories. The uses of history on Atlantic coastlines demonstrate vividly the power of historical knowledge and argument to transform communities. Yet these community approaches to histories of North-East Atlantic coastlines also cast light on fundamental problems with the way much British and Irish history has been conceptualised. These relate to the persistence of the nation state as the primary frame for historical writing, the predominance of cities as the sites in which historical meaning is made, and the continued use of narrative as a privileged form of argument. These problems don’t just require us to challenge the details of existing interpretations, but to radically rethink how these histories are made.

Many of the resources for comprehending these problems come not from within British and Irish histories, but from traditions such as postcolonial studies, counter-mapping, indigenous island studies, seascape epistemologies, hydrofeminism, animal studies and the new materialism. This book asks, for the first time, what might be revealed by applying theoretical perspectives developed to study Pacific islands, the Middle Passage, the Caribbean and Atlantic Canada to British and Irish coastal cultures. Being Littoral therefore brings British and Irish communities into conversation with theorists from coastlines around the world, exploring potential future strategies for combination and collaboration.

In these ways, Being Littoral shows that only by drawing on the full range of tools used to resist the dominant narratives of modern history can we generate visions of past and future that ring true on Atlantic shores, rather than allowing coasts to remain caveats in stories formed from nation states and capital cities. In challenging those singular stories, Being Littoral argues that flexible thinking with, and about, time and temporalities is the primary prerequisite for richer and more purposeful histories: eroding the singular threads of cause and effect in national narratives requires a wide range of approaches and attitudes to time.

Part 1 (20,000 words) establishes the major problems with current historical approaches, exploring the conscious and unconscious strategies by which Atlantic coastlines have been made marginal to urban narratives of Britain and Ireland; it then explores the way historians of other regions have conceptualised time to disrupt the linear arcs to which historical narrative so frequently conform. Part 2 (60,000 words) explores seven responses to the narrative marginalisation of coasts, ranging from simple counter-narratives, to diverse forms of embodiment and the insistence that the past should be organised spatially rather than temporally as a means of rejecting the simplifying force of narrative. Most of these approaches are not ones that historians have used. They emanate instead from activists, artists, poets, geographers and theorists. Each chapter also asks how the approaches under discussion might be integrated into historical practice.

This project builds on the author’s The Frayed Atlantic Edge (Harper Collins, 2019), described by The Scotsman as ‘a major step towards a genuinely radical reimagining of the British Isles’, as ‘a literary triumph’ by the Times Literary Supplement and by The Economist as a ‘poetic and precise…argument for a different kind of history’. Where that book was a personal narrative of travel, Being Littoral is a theoretically-engaged and conceptually ambitious work of research that binds together local and global scales to rethink island histories and geographies. It builds this rereading of the North-East Atlantic on substantive archival research conducted from 2016-19, and is informed by the unique experience of having kayaked all these coastlines collecting community perspectives, building contacts and connections, and photographing landscape and heritage, in 2016-17.

The chapter outlines, below, establish the book’s argument and framework, but these all relate to three themes that are significant for a wide range of scholars, activists and publics:

  1. the way histories are written (especially concerning narrative and temporalities)
  2. the implications in the present of singular narratives of national history for places that don’t fit those narratives
  3. the alternatives to those narratives, which can clear some space for us to think more imaginatively about how we interpret the links between past, present & future

In pursuing these themes the book has several characteristics that make it timely:

  1. It publicises the work of significant activists whose influence and exposure has so far remained local
  2. It explores ways in which current understanding of the islands and their history are problematically rooted in growth-based economics and the nation state
  3. It places the British and Irish Isles in a global frame, subverting the nation state as a unit of analysis
  4. It demonstrates the significance of ocean to human histories in ways that the historical profession is just beginning to become sensitive to
  5. It brings the radical epistemologies of indigenous theory, hydrofeminism, ecocriticism and recent developments in the postcolonial tradition to new audiences
  6. It brings together historical scholarship, theory and radical art practice in a wide-ranging and thoroughly interdisciplinary study
  7. It is the first book-length attempt to elaborate the full range of temporal approaches available to historians of marginalised regions, blending analysis of existing work with strategies for action

Because Being Littoral correlates closely with the burgeoning global scholarship that recovers local knowledge, often by exploring indigenous ways of knowing, the case it builds has implications and audience beyond the British and Irish islands. It engages with scholarship on modern East and South Asia, the North West Atlantic, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, all of which have produced concepts and interpretations that can help make sure this study of the coastlines of Britain and Ireland becomes part of a global conversation about the future of communities at the edge of land and sea.

 

Being Littoral:  Rethinking Atlantic Britain and Ireland

 

Part 1: Framing the Problem

 Chapter 1    Inland Urban Islands                                                  (12,000)

Chapter 2    Time and the Historian                                              (8,000)

 

Part 2: Strategies and Solutions

 Chapter 3    Counter Narratives                                                     (8,000)

Chapter 4    Deep Mapping                                                             (8,000)

Chapter 5    Poetics                                                                           (8,000)

Chapter 6    Connective Stories                                                       (8,000)

Chapter 7    Othering the Present                                                   (8,000)

Chapter 8    Experience                                                                    (8,000)

Chapter 9    Embodiment                                                               (8,000)

Chapter 10  Consequences                                                               (6,000)

                                                                                                            (80,000)

 

Part 1: Framing the Problem

 Chapter 1    Inland Urban Islands

The narrative structures contained in most general books of British and Irish history still privilege linear forms, assuming a story of development that, for all its rich textures, often possesses a singular trajectory. These narrative structures are usually entangled with growth-based economics, the nation state, and other constructs that ought to be subject to more critical forms of attention. As this chapter will demonstrate, even critical scholarly studies of small parts of the past retain unexamined elements of these narratives. The effect is to marginalise regions that don’t fit these large-scale linear patterns. The areas that are repeatedly sidelined are the best places in which to identify strategies to see clearly what damage the linear narratives do and to imagine alternative approaches.

The idea of ‘Enlightenment’ and the 1870s Education Acts provide vivid examples of this marginalisation at work. The term ‘Enlightenment’, with all its progressive implications, runs exactly counter to the historical trajectory of Atlantic coastlines in the same era. It was when ‘Enlightenment’ processes that had worked inland (agricultural improvement, for example) were imposed on coastlines, with substantial disdain for local knowledge and practices, that mass depopulation and the beginning of a local ‘dark age’ occurred. Several forms of scholarship, from critical race studies to feminist thought have provided rigorous challenges to the idea of Enlightenment. Yet, in the context of British history, even studies that reject the metanarrative usually fail to root out assumptions that its prior use has generated. The education acts of the 1870s provide telling illustrations. Still widely celebrated in historical scholarship as a major ‘step forward’ – an unproblematic advance in the drive towards universal literacy – these had entirely different meanings on the coastlines. They were acts of urban imperialism carefully designed to do immense damage and are sometimes remembered as traumas on a similar scale to the clearances and world wars. General histories have a tendency to narrate the major processes, and sometimes to note their uneven effects; but it’s rare for that unevenness to be more than an aside or caveat. The recognition that such unevenness calls for a broader reorganisation of historical approaches is still not widespread.

The result is that the overarching narratives used throughout general histories of Britain and Ireland don’t apply to many regions of the island group. It surely isn’t good enough to keep the narratives but note exceptions. The larger problem is that there is no single story that could possibly replace the narrative being challenged. One way to address this is to explore and encourage more flexible thinking with, and about, time than has hitherto been widely practiced.

It is also important to note that none of this divergence can be framed in national terms: the differentials between the Welsh coast and Cardiff or the Scottish coast and Edinburgh matter as much as those between England and Wales or Scotland. This makes it unsatisfactory that even when historians aim to diversify the geographical perspectives from which the island group’s history is written (e.g. Four Nations History) they often just bring additional cities into play. Nor does the literary concept of ‘the archipelagic’ really help, because the differentials between west and east, north and south are also so profound. The only geography that can make sense of the regions approached in this study is the ‘Atlantic littoral’, but this raises significant questions of its own, bringing Breton, Galician and Faroese culture into conversation with Welsh, Irish and Gaelic.

Being Littoral uses these Atlantic geographies to analyse the existing and potential strategies that communities, scholars and artists have taken, and can take, to undermine the grand narratives that claim to speak for Britain and Ireland but in fact take urban and inland perspectives for granted. It explores the outlooks that have allowed coastal communities to resist the mesmeric pull of ‘modern time’ and think through their pasts in ways with potential to repair the damage. It proposes a ‘temporal littoralism’ that chips away at the singular and teleological visions of our general ‘temporal literalism’. And it argues that, in an era when centralised politics and economics formed round huge urban centres is increasingly widely recognised to be a major barrier between humanity and a sustainable future, the lifeways and philosophies of Gaelic, Irish, Welsh and Shaetlan provide some of the alternative worldviews our societies drastically need.

Chapter 2    Time and the Historian

Almost all the interesting work on temporalities in modern history studies colonial, semi-colonial and postcolonial spaces (classic examples treat the Indian subcontinent, Egypt and Lebanon). That work is built on the premise that understandings of time in Europe and North America have, for centuries, been unusually singular, linear and inflexible. According to the leading historian in the field, Vanessa Ogle, ‘Europeans were slow to develop the same imaginary flexibility of abstraction and ability to juggle different times that those at the core of modern globality had displayed all along’.

Scholars such as Ogle and On Barak argue that standardised time was essentially a Euro-North American phenomenon until far later than once thought: in many places multiple temporal regimes existed into the twentieth century (they weren’t ended by the establishment of time zones and other efforts towards global conformity in the nineteenth). Barak asks how the apparently hegemonic technologies of modern time, from the time zone to the telephone, were reimagined, reformulated or rejected by the diverse communities they had supposedly been ‘imposed’ on. Given new political meanings and new practical uses, these technologies could be turned against the very ‘modernizing’ purposes they were intended to advance, strengthening commitment to alternative temporal modes rather than embodying the imposition of international standards that imperial powers intended and expected.

All this scholarship emphasises the existence of multiple threads of uneven development where narratives of the globalisation of western time had previously been more straightforward. But that multiplicity existed everywhere. In fact, current work usually focuses on urban experience, whether in Cairo or Mumbai, when the dynamics between urbanised culture and rural coastlines – whether in Gaspé, Galicia or Galway – are also worth attention. Shetland culture, the Gaelic culture of the Isle of Lewis and the Irish societies of Connemara have been particularly full of flexible thinking with temporalities, in ways that reveal modern time regimes to be intrinsically urban.

Other books, such as Prasenjit Duara’s Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (1995), have shown the entanglement of narrative, time and nation. They demonstrate that, in seeking frameworks for understanding localities in Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England, our conceptual net should be cast wide. Global histories, histories of south and east asia, and of the Islamic world, are currently far more advanced in their handling of temporal concepts, and their resistance to linear narrative, than is European history.

As all the above implies, linear time has deep roots in the European and US academy, as in Euro-North American cultures in general; and narrative, built from single lines of cause and effect, has been the privileged mode of discourse for two centuries at least. As the above also implies, the methods explored in Being Littoral aren’t applicable only to Atlantic Britain and Ireland, but can be relevant to any space in which communities live in the shadow of grand narratives that don’t fit their experience.

 

Part 2: Strategies and Solutions

 Chapter 3    Counter Narratives

The most prevalent strategy for diminishing the power of modernising narratives is the creation of alternative histories that work for specific groups: giving voice to marginalised communities in narratives that are separate from overarching, singular histories. James Hunter’s The Making of the Crofting Community (1976) is a classic of this genre, inspired by E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963) which set out to recover the voices of the urban poor from ‘the enormous condescension of posterity’. The 1970s were the key moment in the flourishing of new histories in archives and museums as well as texts. That moment saw several individuals and organisations argue that economic regeneration and linguistic revival were dependent on the creation of new narrative shapes for coastal pasts. These narratives sought to restore dignity to traditions that had been dismissed as ‘backwards’ in comparison to the forward thrust of urban development. While not challenging the usefulness of the idea of modernity (as an approach informed by 1970s anthropological theory might have done), they created the idea that it was possible to be ‘differently modern’: that modernity was not a singular urban phenomenon.

The emphasis in these ongoing movements has been both on collecting empirical data – saving knowledge in danger of being lost – and on creating the local narratives this information lends itself to. Comunn Eachdraidh Nis (Ness Historical Society) is one useful case study which deserves to be well known among historians. In the 1970s Ness, the northernmost region of the Outer Hebrides, was among the most economically depressed regions in the UK, with an education system rooted in urban ideals that had the purpose of training children to be shipped to the mainland for work. The region received an injection of cash from the Van Leer Fund in the ‘70s and figures such as Annie MacSween who were responsible for using this money chose to do something exceptional with it. Where every other region which received Van Leer grants used them to set up things like fishing cooperatives or haulage companies, the Ness group argued that all such projects would fail until local people turned round the narratives in which they saw the region and their lives. They used their money to establish an archive, and hired six fieldworkers to collect oral histories. They aimed to undermine the binary between ‘traditional’ Ness and ‘modern’ cities. They are now the biggest employer in the region and part of a network of 34 historical societies in the Outer Hebrides (Tasglann nan Eilean Siar). They are one among countless small success stories on Scottish and Irish coasts which show the transformative power of historical storytelling and provide powerful examples for the impact of history on community and politics.

Chapter 4    Deep Mapping

There has been a much more explicit recognition in Irish scholarship than in British that narrative is a problem. The result has been a widespread movement that constructs historical knowledge by rendering it in space rather than in time. In deep mapping and historical cartography ‘ground truthing’ is no longer a matter of more accurate measurement, but of layering the map with historical information.

In Ireland dozens of community deep mapping and ground thruthing projects aim to undermine the ways the ordnance survey cleansed the coastlines of histories. Like the counter narratives, above, this is at heart a project of recovery, but one that assumes the best way to counter the narratives of modernity is not the construction of yet more narratives. The rhetoric of cartographers is often explicitly anti-Enlightenment. In the words of the leading scholar in the field, Tim Robinson, deep maps avoid cause, effect and narrative: ‘they don’t aim’, he says, ‘to compose a local history; they mark some points of attachment of the historical web from which one can grope back along the strands into the darkness’. This is also comparable to the approach of archaeologists who seek spatialised patterns without attempting to provide narrative arcs. The approach throws into relief the fact that writers of history books, in contrast to geographers, still aren’t used to drawing arguments or conclusions except through the tools of narrative.

Scotland has particularly strong resources for thinking spatially in this way (for instance, the online geographical database of historical sites, Canmore) but the only way of finding the full potential of this approach will be for coastal communities, geographers, archaeologists and historians to work together. The limited interaction between historians and these movements (many community groups liaise with universities through geographers and regional studies units, but rarely, if ever, through historians) suggests a continued divide between the spatial and temporal organisation of knowledge that is worth interrogating.

Chapter 5    Poetics

Poetry is one of the most characteristic resources of the coastlines and has been made into a rallying cry for imagining the past differently in works such as James Hunter’s On the Other Side of Sorrow (1995). There are many metaphors among coastal poets for the ways in which island histories are different from those of inland cities. In Shetland poetry, from Robert Alan Jamieson to Roseanne Watt, ‘the rootless tree’ – an uprooted trunk washed ashore as driftwood – has become a frequent metaphor for island culture. This metaphor refers to a society stripped of its written past by the death of the islands’ Norn language. Poets have sought to imagine, and even reconstruct, the roots by linguistic and folkloric rather than historical means; poetry, rather than prose scholarship, has therefore become the primary means for asking what can be retrieved from the lore-rich but text-deprived Shaetlan past.

The poetries of place and of the shoreline are currently undergoing their most dramatic revivals ever. This has been informed by recent theorists who argue that ecological awakening entails ‘the revenge of place’ against postmodern space. Timothy Morton argues that ‘it is space that has turned out to be an anthropocentric concept’ and that place ‘has a strange loop form because place deeply involves time’. A host of poets associated with individual places (from Orkney to Dingle to Ynys Enlli) have sought, sometimes through careers spanning half a century, to entirely reread the historic associations of their locality. As with deep mapping, this works not by composing histories, but ‘marking points of attachment’ in the web of past and present, and forcing multiple temporalities together, swinging from deep time, through history, into the present with an efficiency rare in prose. New coastal poetry draws on concepts such as the shoormal, in which the intertidal zone becomes a metaphor for indeterminate spaces between nature and culture, human and animal, inanimate and animate. This work often acknowledges its debt to theorists from the new materialism such as Donna Haraway, Jane Bennett and Rosi Braidotti. The result is that poets are currently doing much of the informed and sophisticated work of revisioning island pasts.

Chapter 6    Connective Histories

This approach amplifies the voices of those whose individual pasts include threads beyond the nation state: it draws attention to the fictive nature of borders, and renders national narratives unsustainable. Most significantly, it reinterprets water not as a barrier but as a constant source of interconnection. No coastal place can be imagined except as the unique sum of its water-borne echoes of elsewhere. But these histories are also intensely personal, drawing larger meanings from a single narrative, in memoir, biography or autobiography: they usually show the possibility of collective biographies of place, yet few such collective texts have actually been constructed.

Connectivity works in many directions. New stories arise from the experience of Syrian refugees on the Isle of Bute, of emigration between Nigeria and Ireland, or of being black in a white family in Orkney (Luke Sutherland). Stories of the coastlines incorporate their diasporas, whether the Gaelic speakers of Canada and Australia, the Irish influence in the United States, or the Welsh enclave in Patagonia. And violent histories that have often been hidden – such as the roles of Gaels in the Atlantic slave trade – are placed at the centre of redefinitions of identity.

In all this work, the coast is conceptualised as porous: the sea not as barrier but conduit, a medium of encounters not an impediment to movement, and a force that can erode the hard edges of the nation state to allow a multiplicity of stories to flow together. This is not so much the establishment of counter narratives as the demonstration that everywhere contains a host of entangled stories, each place made unique by the complex harmonies in its echoes of distant coastlines. The necessary conclusion of tracing the genealogies of a single place is that relata do not precede relations: to paraphrase Peter Fryer, there were Africans on British coasts before the English came here, while Shetland is Dutch and German not just Norse and Faroese, and no stories can be told that fit neatly within an imagined geographical container.

Chapter 7    Othering the Present

The idea of ‘potential histories’, drawing on postcolonial scholarship (such as the work of Ariella Azoulay), has become particularly influential on Atlantic coastlines during the last decade, although it is rarely used in relation to inland or urban British or Irish histories. ‘Potential histories’ denote those pasts and presents that could have flourished were they not cut short by the totalising ambitions of colonialism and the new centralised political economy of the late eighteenth century. This method aims primarily to show that the present we live in was not inevitable and that past worldviews can be resources for dismantling the assumptions on which a destructive present depends.

Where many of the strategies outlined in previous chapters are primarily empirical, this is a more conceptually ambitious but, so far, less empirically grounded reimagining of coastlines. It has extraordinary unfulfilled potential for rethinking the relations of cities and coasts in an era forced to confront crises created by urban living. The work of David Lloyd, including Irish Times: the Temporalities of Modernity, presents our present as a wrong turn: a single toxic offshoot from multiple living pasts. Our task becomes the imagining of alternatives: potential futures built on the reclamation of prematurely severed histories.

This is part of the burgeoning global effort to recover local ways of knowing. Unlike the other approaches here it explicitly identifies the Irish coastline (in particular) as a postcolonial space. It is also framed by its own grand narrative that reverses the meanings of Enlightenment. The moment that created the most dangerous aspects of our present was the imperialist expansion, especially from the 1760s onwards, of growth-based economics. The new political economy presented cities as inevitable and coastlines as backwards and poverty stricken – failing – when in fact they were succeeding, just on measures that the advocates of modern life couldn’t bring themselves to imagine as valuable. The new political economy made itself seem hegemonic by wiping out all competition. Seeing beyond the myth of inevitability makes the premodern past real: alive with potential futures. The future is made real if reconnected to its many pasts. The present, in contrast, is false and dead. Accepted meanings of time and narrative are reversed.

Chapter 8     Experience

It is widely assumed that travel writing has drastically declined in the last two decades, under pressure of accusations of orientalism and exoticism. Yet there have been few boom industries in recent British publishing to match narratives of travel within the British Isles. This chapter argues that in the guise of ‘the new nature writing’, pioneered by Robert Macfarlane in books such as The Old Ways, and now practiced by dozens of individuals whose journeys take them disproportionately to the western and northern edges of the island group, a unique approach to history writing has been developed. This method orders multiple pasts according to a single story, but chooses a story deliberately disconnected from the past itself: a personal memoir, a journey on foot, or the first-person perspective of a novel or short story’s protagonist. Although early experiments in the new nature writing were rightly dismissed as ‘lyrical’ and ‘ahistorical’, the integration of rigorous historical approaches and increasingly diverse voices into the field have been the most significant developments of the last decade.

The method of all these texts involves approaching temporalities through personal narratives that allow points of connection with multiple pasts. It is an approach that gives readers the familiar experience of reading narrative, while the arcs involved take place on personal scales instead of being constrained by large linear patterns imposed on history itself. This is therefore another approach that organises its histories spatially despite the fact that the books in this genre are ordered temporally.

One drawback of using this approach is that foregrounding the personal in this way has traditionally been considered incompatible with the modes of scholarship. Few historians conduct their research in this way (the most notable exception is perhaps Modris Eksteins’ Walking Since Daybreak: A Story of Eastern Europe, World Wars, and the Heart of our Century (1999) which blends memoir, movement, and conceptual innovation to dramatic effect).This leads to the question of how far genre (the narrow range of formats in which scholarly argument takes place) is just as implicated as form in the persistence of unhelpful and marginalising frameworks. This chapter argues that, in an academy where emotions, psychology and the place of the individual in, for instance, the vast processes of climate are taken increasingly seriously, it is time to ask what the place of experiential approaches in scholarly debate could be.

Chapter 9    Embodiment

Art and theory overlap in the ways they seek to situate the viewer/reader in space, time, elemental forces and – ultimately – the temporal flux of climate. This chapter shows how the ‘seascape epistemologies’ of artists and theorists, which situate the individual within the flows of tide and weather, can be starting points for recovering localised ways of knowing.

One thing any visitor to Atlantic coastlines sees is the sea’s association with visual art, expressed in a unique concentration of arts centres and galleries. The work of e.g. Ellis O’Connor, Shaziah Mahmoud or Ruth Livingstone situates artist and viewer in the elements, channelling the impact of weather on the senses.

Some of the most useful scholarship for framing this phenomenon comes from hydrofeminist visions of the place of the individual within the temporalities of climate, and from postcolonial scholarship that uses ‘seascape epistemologies’ to recover and re-dignify localised, island, ways of knowing. Astrida Neimanis & Rachel Lowen’s ‘Weathering’ takes its perspective from Atlantic shores; it aims to short-circuit the teleological, linear and progressive framework in which nation states profess faith in technological solutions to climate collapse. Karin Ingersoll’s Waves of Knowing resists the commercialisation of island societies by formulating its epistemology through the eyes and bodies of traditional surfers. The work of Sonja Boon, including Autoethnography and Feminist Theory at the Water’s Edge explores multiple embodiments of western and indigenous pasts in Atlantic Canada, emphasising the entangled rhythms of individuals, communities, and states.

Scholars such as Neimanis, Lowen, Ingersoll and Boon present humans as watery, permeable bodies suffused in the elements as items of weather. People are subject to weathering in the same way as coastlines, just with different rhythms. They are part of the weather-world in flux that coastal artists depict. The ideologies of linear modern time have attempted to cut us off from water and weather (in cities), made us believe that our bodies are coherent units, and made climate crisis seem like something ‘out there’ rather than ‘in here’. Neimanis refers to ‘the thick time of transcorporeality’ – in which each of our permeable bodies is a node in climate-change temporalities. This is the time we appreciate best when we subject ourselves to wind, rain and ocean, but in which each of us is also a weathermaker, with a carbon footprint and an impact far beyond our self. Algal blooms, arctic ice and spawning salmon are also nodes in the flux with their own rhythms of weathering. This connectedness is one of the main ideas that coastal art today attempts to develop.

Developing themes touched on in chapter 5, this chapter asks what happens to historical practice if we consider water to be a medium of history and accept the ontological challenges posed by Neimanis, Ingersoll and Boon.

Chapter 10    Consequences

This final chapter asks how these multiple approaches can be used more widely. None of them offers a grand scheme to replace the problematic vision that all of them resist. Each simply works to clear a space in which we can imagine something different. As such they present a range of tools that can be used to challenge the idea that there’s no alternative to the teleological visions formed round growth-based economics and the nation state. The space cleared for imagining difference is what matters. This chapter brings the approaches outlined in Being Littoral into conversation with recent methodological work more familiar to historians, from the writing of Joan Scott and Timothy Mitchell to Greg Anderson.

 

Some Key Texts:

 

Astrida Neimanis & Rachel Lowen, ‘Weathering: Climate Change & the Thick Time of         Transcorporeality’, Hypatia (2014)

Astrida Neimanis, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (2017)

Karin Amimoto Ingersoll, Waves of Knowing: a Seascape Epistemology (2016)

Boon, Butler & Jefferies, Autoethnography and Feminist Theory at the Water’s Edge: Unsettled Islands (2018)

Sonja Boon, What the Oceans Remember (2019)

Christine Sharpe, In the Wake: on Blackness and Being (2016)

Peter Cole, Coyote Raven Go Canoeing (2006)

Anthony Adler, Neptune’s Laboratory: Fantasy, Fear and Science at Sea (2019)

Charlotte Mathieson (ed.), Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea, 1600-Present (2016)

Allen, Groom et al (eds.), Coastal Works: Cultures of the Atlantic Edge (2017)

Nessa Cronin, ‘Ground Truths: Deep Mapping Communities in the West of Ireland’, in         Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet one Place at a Time (2017)

David Lloyd, Irish Times: the Temporalities of Modernity (2008)

Cairns Craig, Out of History: Narrative Paradigms in Scottish & British Culture (1996)

Tim Robinson, Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (1989)

Tim Robinson, Setting Foot on the Shores of Connemara (1984)

Pippa Marland, Ecocriticism and the Island: Readings from the British-Irish Archipelago (2020)

Ariella Azoulay, Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (2019)

Hayden White, The Content of the Form (1987)

Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other (1983)

Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time (1995)

Naomi Standen, ‘Colouring Outside the Lines’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (2019)

James Hunter, The Making of the Crofting Community (1976)

James Hunter, On the Other Side of Sorrow (1995)

Roger Hutchinson, The Waxing Moon (2005)

Caoimhín De Barra, Gaeilge: A Radical Revolution (2019)

Alaimo & Hekman, Material Feminisms (2007)

Elizabeth Grosz, Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power (2005)

Pippa Marland, Ecocriticism and the Island (2019)

John Kerrigan, Archipelagic English (2008)

Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects (2013)

Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble (2016)

Robert Markley, ‘Time’ in Tom Cohen (ed.), Telemorphosis: Theory in the era of climate change (2012)

David Farrier, Anthropocene Poetics: Deep Time, Sacrifice Zones & Extinction (2019)

Prasenjit Duara’s Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China   (1995)

On Barak, On Time: Technology & Temporality in Modern Egypt (2013)

Vanessa Ogle, The Global Transformation of Time (2015)