Symposium Sea Mediations: Hydro-criticism and Tidal Thinking

Date:  30-31 May 2024
Location: University of Amsterdam
For: RMa students, PhD candidates, academic staff
Organisers:University of Amsterdam, Radboud University, ASCA, NICA, RMeS

Registration: Please visit

PDF Complete programme Sea Mediations

Over the past decade, as part of a larger tendency in humanities, media studies has become ‘elemental’, i.e. the field has become attuned to its constituent parts, especially to the substances and substrates that compose media (Starosielski 2019). Media technologies, their materiality, hardware, and energy are connected with geophysical nature: nature affords and bears the weight of media culture. In the field of elemental media studies, different scholars have critically engaged with such issues to urge us to rethink what media and mediations exactly are. Much of the research in elemental media studies is oriented by the periodic or the Greek elements, while others contest this Eurocentric focus and have for instance added wood and metal, elements of Chinese philosophy and point to the legacies of colonialism and the dangers of neo-colonialism. While addressing these more general problems and questions related to the elemental turn in the humanities, this symposium focuses in particular on the element of water. So as part of so-called ocean humanities, blue humanities or hydro feminism, the symposium brings together some of the most prominent scholars who engage with and hydro-criticism and different dimensions of sea mediations, and oceanic or tidal thinking. Our keynote speakers each are pioneers and experts in this rapidly growing (overflowing) field of media studies in the humanities.


DAY 1: Thursday 30 May
Location: UvA Bushuis (Kloveniersburgwal 48) room F1.14

10.00 – 10.15 Arrival
10.15 – 10.30 Opening (room F1.14): Leonie Schmidt & Patricia Pisters
10.30 – 12.00 Keynote (room F1.14): Melody Jue
Title: ‘Holding Sway: Sustainability and the Photomedia of Seaweeds’
Chair: Patricia Pisters
10.30 – 11.30 Keynote
11.30 – 12.00 Q&A and discussion
12.00 – 13.15 Lunch break (lunch will not be provided)
13.15 – 14.30 Panel 1 (room F1.14): Hydrofeminism and Aquatic Bodies
Xinyi Zheng, Martina Furlan, Michał Bilski, Bogna Bochinska
14.30 – 14.45 Break
14.45 – 16.00 Panel 2 (room F1.14): Colonial Perspectives, Piracy, and Sea-borders
Omur Kirli, Cormac Henehan, Simeon Haselton
16.00 – 16.15 Break
16.15 –17.45 Keynote (room F1.14): Nicole Starosielski, Michael Brand, and Isabelle Cherry
Title: ‘Regulation vs. Recycling: Competing Forms of Marine and Planetary Sustainability’
Chair: László Munteán
16.15– 17.15 Keynote
17.15 – 17.45 Q&A and discussion
17.45-18.45 – Closing and drinks (location tba)

DAY 2: Friday 31 May
Location: UvA Oudemanhuispoort (Oudemanhuispoort 4-6) rooms A1.18D and D1.08

10.30 – 10.45 Arrival
10.45 – 11.00 Opening (room A1.18D): Patricia Pisters & Leonie Schmidt
11.00 – 12:30 Keynote (room A1.18D): Mekhala Dave
Title: ‘Ocean Relations and Rights’
Chair: Jeroen Boom
11.00 – 12.00 Keynote
12.00 – 12.30 Q&A and discussion
12.30 – 13.30 Lunch break (lunch will not be provided)
13.30 – 14:45 Panel 3 (room A1.18D): Technology and Aesthetics: Capturing Water:
Jamil Fiorino-Habib & Mae Lubetkin, Susanne Janssen, Sanny Schulte
14.45 – 15.00 Break
15.00 – 16.15 Panel 4: (room A1.18D) Hydro-infrastructures and Eco-Politics:
Anı Ekin Özdemir, Xudong Yang, Marije Nieuwland & Lucas Rinzema, Miriam Matthiessen
16.15 – 16.30 Break
16.30 – 18.00 Keynote (room D1.08): Yuriko Furuhata
Title: ‘Self-Portraits of Coral: Visual Archives and Radiation Ecologies in the Anthropocene’
Chair: Carolyn Birdsall
16.30 – 17.30 Keynote
17.30 – 18.00 Q&A and discussion


Melody Jue
Thursday 30 May, 10:30-12:00 (room Bushuis, F1.14)

Holding Sway: Sustainability and the Photomedia of Seaweeds

This talk will explore how the photomedia of seaweeds offer valuable perspectives on sustainability and its conceptualization. Many dreams of seaweed futurity are entangled with aspirations to enact more sustainable futures—the future of food, the future of biofuels, the future of bioplastics. Beyond their biopolitical management as resources, seaweeds lead me to consider the epistemic preconditions of sustainability and management. Photographic media about seaweeds sometimes depend on the photomedia of seaweeds. At the same time, what I call the “metabolic photography” of seaweeds parallels the desire of sustainability practices to change global metabolisms. Yet in a Hawaiian context, seaweeds (limu) show how sustainability must include Indigenous knowledge and ecological conservation. Concluding with a discussion of Hawaiian cyanotypes and limu photography, I show how “holding sway” not only names the interest of sustainability projects in seaweeds, but a seaweed-centered aesthetic of care by which limu are framed by the hands.


Melody Jue (pronunciation rhymes with “blue”) is an Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research and writings center the ocean humanities, science fiction, media studies, science & technology studies, and the environmental humanities. Professor Jue is the author of Wild Blue Media: Thinking Through Seawater (Duke University Press, 2020) which won the Speculative Fictions and Cultures of Science Book Prize, and the co-editor of Saturation: An Elemental Politics (Duke University Press, 2021) with Rafico Ruiz. Forthcoming books include Coralations (Minnesota Press, 2024) and the edited collection Informatics of Domination (Duke Press, 2025) with Zach Blas and Jennifer Rhee. Her new work, Holding Sway, examines the photographic and kinesthetic media of seaweeds across transpacific contexts. She regularly collaborates with ocean scientists and artists, from fieldwork to collaborative writings and other projects. Many of her writings are informed by scuba diving fieldwork and coastal observations.

Nicole Starosielski, Michael Brand, and Isabelle Cherry
Thursday 30 May, 16:15-17:45 (room Bushuis, F1.14)

Regulation vs. Recycling: Competing Forms of Marine and Planetary Sustainability

The ocean is increasingly the site of new laws and governance designed to ensure the sustainability of both the ocean and the planet as a whole. Marine protected areas and marine national monuments are being instituted in oceans around the world. The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty is a recently created legally binding instrument focused on the conservation of marine life. The EU Emissions Trading System, which caps allowances for greenhouse gas emissions, was extended to maritime transport just this year. These forms of governance may help to curb forms of exploitation and emissions. This talk, however, focuses on some cases in which they curtail other environmentally-oriented uses of the ocean’s depths. We focus specifically on the case of subsea cable recycling, in which companies draw up old telecommunications cable systems from the seafloor and re-integrate them into the circular economy. We trace what happens when these different understandings of marine and planetary sustainability come into conflict.


Nicole Starosielski, Professor, University of California, Berkeley, conducts research on global internet and media distribution, communications infrastructures ranging from data centers to undersea cables, and media’s environmental and elemental dimensions. Starosielski is author or co-editor of over thirty articles and five books on media, infrastructure, and environments, including: The Undersea Network (2015), Media Hot and Cold (2021), Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructure (2015), Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment (2016), Assembly Codes: The Logistics of Media (2021), as well as co-editor of the “Elements” book series at Duke University Press. Starosielski’s most recent project, Sustainable Subsea Networks, is focused on increasing the sustainability of digital infrastructures. The project team has developed a catalog of best practices for sustainability in the subsea cable industry—the backbone of the global internet—as well as a carbon footprint of a subsea cable. Starosielski is also a co-convenor of the SubOptic Association’s Global Citizen Working Group.

Isabelle Cherry is a research assistant on the SubOptic Foundation’s Sustainable Subsea Networks research team. She is also an undergraduate student pursuing a B.S. degree in Environmental Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research explores sustainability metrics relating to the global manufacturing, deployment, and disposal of subsea telecommunications cables with a particular focus on how regulations impact cable recycling efforts.

Michael Brand is an undergraduate research assistant at UC Berkeley studying environmental economics and policy. His research interests surround applying concepts from behavioral economics to the communication of sustainability efforts for undersea cables.

Mekhala Dave
Friday 31 May, 11:00-12:30, (room OMHP A1.18D)

Ocean Relations and Rights

Water as guidance and inspiration, how do we listen to the ocean and form a kinship with the ocean? Can one think with arts and culture to expand on relations with the ocean? Through my experiences as a Law and Policy Analyst/Researcher, I will build on two case studies, firstly, the legal principle of common heritage of humankind that span global waters, and increased human activities of governing global waters for the future of deep sea mining, an internationally motivated yet speculative mining operation for minerals in the deep sea for a green energy transition. Secondly, I will also expand on Rights of Nature that emphasize rights as a legal and cultural concept for water bodies that is changing the way in burgeoning human and non-human entanglements, civil society movements towards an ocean stewardship that is envisaged in the face of climate change and its impacts on the ocean.


Mekhala Dave is a lawyer and art academic based in Vienna. She is the ocean law and policy analyst/legal researcher at TBA21–Academy and a doctoral researcher in contemporary art history and theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. In her past and current work in legal practice, as well as in her PhD research, she advocates for a social turn in artistic practices and explores encounters located across knowledge spheres and communities in the Global South at the intersection of activism and newly shaping ocean policy. She is the co-creator of Culturing the Deep Sea program at the Academy and represents the Academy at the UN’s International Seabed Authority on deep sea mining policies and advocacy. From her lived experiences across borders, she draws inspiration and spiritual guidance from water to the questions of historicity and the search for emerging “new” relations of identity and belonging.

Yuriko Furuhata
Friday 31 May, 16:30-18:00 (room OMHP D1.08)

Self-Portraits of Coral: Visual Archives and Radiation Ecologies in the Anthropocene

Media histories of coral reef science and resource extraction in the Pacific are intimately connected to the territorial expansionism of the Japanese and U.S. empires. In the 1930s, Japanese marine biologists began studying the living habitats of coral reefs at the Palao Tropical Biological Station in the island of Koror in today’s Republic of Palau, while the island was occupied and governed by the Japanese empire. Their research on the symbiotic relationship between coral polyps and algae laid one of the foundations for the American science of nuclear ecology that developed out of the study of the irradiated atolls of the Marshall Islands, which the United States infamously used as a site of nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s. Focusing on the technology of radioautography that American scientists used to visualize radiation, I connect this transpacific history of nuclear waste to the colonial histories of coral reef science and guano mining. In doing so, I examine how this extractive process of image-making mediated by irradiated coral specimens contributed to the production of radiation and coral reef ecologies.
Thinking about the nonhuman agents of knowledge production in relation to the colonial history of mineral extraction allows us to critically reflect on what I call the underside of the Anthropocene.


Yuriko Furuhata is Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar of Cinema and Media History in the Department of East Asian Studies at McGill University. Her first book, Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics (Duke University Press, 2013), won the Best First Book Award from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies. Her second book, Climatic Media: Transpacific Experiments in Atmospheric Control (Duke University Press, 2022) explores the geopolitical conditions underpinning environmental art, weather control, digital computing, and cybernetic architecture in Japan and the United States. She is currently completing a new book project, titled Visual Grammars of Deep Time: Archipelagic Archives of the Anthropocene, which examines sets of scientific atlases, photographs, and films of fossils, clouds, snow crystals, and corals in relation to the settler colonial histories of geosciences in Japan, the Pacific, and North America.