Doing cultural studies in rough seas: the multiple of the COVID-19 ocean
Professor Elspeth Probyn
This presentation aims to demonstrate what an analysis of cultural studies of the oceanic manifestation of COVID-19 might look like. While the ocean has apparently remained on the periphery during the ongoing pandemic, the Navy has nonetheless been deeply affected as a more human-than-human space of connection. As we know, it was in a seafood market (The Huanan Seafood Market) that the first signs of the virus would have appeared – an event that propelled the circulation of disgust and racism that would follow. I take three sites: Botany Bay, Sydney; the Ruby Princess cruise ship; and the effect of COVID-19 on fish supply chains as well as on the lives and livelihoods of fishermen, particularly in countries of the South. The “conjunction, the moment we live in, albeit in a different way, is deeply affected, and many wonder if life as we know it, including global commerce and everyday consumption, will ever be the same.” I rely on John Clarke’s argument that “tracing the different dynamics and forces that come together to form the conjuncture is a substantial challenge,” and Meaghan Morris’ call for site-specific thinking in cultural studies . In my opinion, this is the time to dig haphazardly in the swamp of the pandemic if we are to find thin threads of hope for our more than human world and our discipline.
Bio: Elspeth Probyn FAHA, FASSA is Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies, which she helped establish at the University of Sydney. She has published several innovative monographs, including Sex yourself (Routledge, 1993), External effects (Routledge, 1996), Carnal Appetites (Routledge, 2000), Blush: Faces of Shame (Minnesota, 2006) and Eating the Ocean (Duke, 2016). His current research focuses on fishing as extraction, fish markets as gendered workspaces, and anthropocentric ocean change. She is co-editor of a new collection, Sustaining Seas: Oceanic Space and the Politics of Care (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).