Reimagining the Pacific: Images of the Ocean in Chile and Peru, c.1960 to the present

Project Details


This project has two key aims:

1) To reshape academic discussions around visual and audiovisual engagements with the ocean by addressing neglected perspectives from Chile and Peru

2) To further public understanding of how we can live well in changing coastal environments, by investigating new ways in which scholars of visual and audiovisual media can communicate the results of their work and engage in public discussions.

The project asks how visual and audiovisual responses to the Pacific Ocean from Chile and Peru, from 1960 to the present, can shape a new critical understanding of how coastal communities respond to social and environmental pressures. In a time of ecological crisis, the ability of visual and audiovisual media to further engagement with and understanding of environmental issues has come under increasing scrutiny. Scholarship in the emerging field of the ‘blue humanities’, which addresses cultural engagements with the ocean, has however remained largely focused on European and North American contexts. Within this field, scholars such as Philip Steinberg, Stacy Alaimo and Astrida Neimanis have persuasively argued for academic attention to be paid to the ocean as a material, multispecies environment, rather than as symbol or resource to be used by humans. This approach, they argue, can help imagine new social identities, and offer new responses to ecological crisis.
This fellowship will investigate how this approach becomes visible in the work of artists operating in an environment where enduring postcolonial structures of power contribute to social inequalities. There is a significant body of material, from the photographs of Sergio Larrain to recent installations by Ana Teresa Barboza and cinematic work by Tiziana Panizza and Patricio Guzmán, which can help to answer this question. Building on work undertaken during my recent British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant, my analysis of these works and others will interrogate the viability of the conceptual categories of the ‘blue humanities’ in the Latin American context, and seek to make the field more responsive to concerns from the Global South. I will ask three linked research questions:

1.How do creative visual and audiovisual responses to the Pacific Ocean in Chile and Peru reveal neglected local histories and contemporary social and ecological challenges?

2.To what extent, and how, do these works circulate and become part of a broader social conversation, locally, nationally and transnationally?

3.How can scholars produce (and co-produce) critical engagements with these works that further public understanding of how we can live well in changing coastal environments?

The project moreover asks how these creative works circulate, and what kinds of publics they reach in their efforts to contest hegemonic narratives around national identity. A Post-Doctoral Research Assistant will be recruited, and will publish a journal article on this question in a leading Latin American studies journal. I will also address issues of circulation and impact by organising stakeholder workshops in Chile and Peru, involving local arts organisations, environmental NGOs and representatives of the cultural arms of municipal governments. These events will inform the project’s approach to its third research question, that of how scholars and stakeholders might co-produce critical engagements with creative visual and audiovisual works that further public understanding of how we can live well in changing coastal environments. To what extent, and how, might the local, regional, and national issues identified in these works resonate across national borders? Does the intersection of social, political and ecological concerns in these works challenge the conceptual categories currently employed by scholars in the environmental or ‘blue’ humanities? If so, what new forms of critical engagement might be needed? I will work with the Project Partner, the Centro de Cine y Creación in Santiago de Chile (Centre for Cinema and Creation – CCC) throughout the fellowship in order to hold workshops that tackle these questions, and to design new methods for disseminating critical responses to relevant cultural material. I will also hold a symposium with researchers and creative practitioners working in the fields of ecomedia and audiovisual research methods in the UK in order to develop answers to these questions, and will engage with these debates in the monograph and journal article that will emerge from the fellowship.
Effective start/end date1/02/2131/07/22

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Environmental Humanities


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