Instructor: Ali Glassie
Meeting time: Thursday, 9:45-11:45 am
How has the ocean made the modern world? This course asks how stories of the Atlantic intersect with larger threads of world history such as empire, enslavement, and Indigenous dispossession. Mindful that the very word oceanography combines the Greek words for ocean and writing, we’ll investigate how biophysical conditions mediate cultural, historical, and even economic experience. How did Atlantic currents, prevailing winds, and fisheries facilitate the development of racial capitalism? And how do we write and narrate these stories? As we explore the Atlantic Ocean’s role in the making of the modern world, we’ll navigate an archive that spans from the Viking era to the present, reading sources like the Vinland Saga, the sixteenth century Portuguese epic The Lusiads, nautical charts, Frederick Douglass’s letters from Ireland, Nnedi Okorafor’s Afrofuturist novel Lagoon, and abolitionist satire written by sharks. We’ll also speak with oceanographers, captains, and scholar-activists in the United States and Brazil. This course represents a public humanities partnership with the Atlantic Black Box Project and the Schooner Roseway. As students develop skills in close-reading and archival research, they will collaborate on a tour of Boston harbor: interrogating local complicity in the economy of enslavement and linking Atlantic histories to contemporary matters of social and environmental justice.