Peter presented a paper titled “The Sea as a Hyperobject: Navigating beyond maritime cultural landscapes?” at the Entangled Sea conference in Manchester.

Abstract

The recent “speculative turn” in continental philosophy has challenged long-standing theories of mental constructs, including theories of cognitive landscapes. The primary theory deriving from the speculative turn is Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO), which examines the being of objects. It challenges correlationism, or the subject-object relations that have typified philosophy since Kant. This approach has identified a new type of object, previously unacknowledged, which has been termed hyperobject. Hyperobjects are entities of vast geographical and temporal scale, such as climate change or black holes. OOO and the concept of hyperobjects are particularly intriguing to archaeology and the study of material culture.

The maritime cultural landscape paradigm has been the definitive approach of maritime archaeology over the last thirty years. It has sought to understand mariners’ conception of the sea through a landscape approach, believing the seascape to be a cognitive landscape of features with embedded meaning. The contributions have been significant and many are, arguably, lasting. However, the concept of a “seascape” is a form of correlationism that provides an anthropocentric interpretation and overlooks much of the sea’s agency. Using an OOO approach, this paper examines the sea as a hyperobject and attempts to re-frame how we think about human engagement with water. Drawing on the author’s fieldwork in the Mediterranean including the Aegean and Portus in Italy, it addresses whether entanglements are interactions between real objects, rather than cognitive constructs.