The sea and International Relations

Edited by Benjamin de Carvalho and Halvard Leira

The sea and International Relations


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5510-8
  • Pages: 296
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £64.00
  • Published Date: June 2022
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / International relations, Law, International Relations, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Security (National & International), SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Oceanography, LAW / Gender & the Law, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, Nato, International Environmental Law


While the world's oceans cover more than seventy percent of its surface, the sea has largely vanished as an object of enquiry in International Relations (IR), being treated either as a corollary of land or as time. Yet, the sea is the quintessential international space, and its importance to global politics has become all the more obvious in recent years. Drawing on interdisciplinary insights from IR, Historical Sociology, Blue Humanities and Critical Ocean Studies, The sea and International Relations breaks with this trend of oceanic amnesia, and kickstarts a theoretical, conceptual and empirical discussion about the sea and IR, by highlighting theoretical puzzles, analysing broad historical perspectives and addressing contemporary challenges. In bringing the sea back into IR, the book reconceptualises the canvas of international relations to include the oceans as a social, political, economic and military space which affects the workings of world politics.


'This beautifully edited book tells a new and incredibly rich story of the sea. Each chapter not only unsettles our geopolitical imaginaries, but also invites us to think deeper about the ways in which oceans and waterways continue to shape the conditions of possibility of world politics. This is an outstanding volume that is likely to make a splash in our discipline of International Relations.'
Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Copenhagen University

'International Relations mostly treats the politics of the sea as a background constant, thanks to two centuries of Anglo-American naval hegemony. But no state's naval hegemony is eternal, which makes it all the more interesting to explore the long history of high-seas politics, as this volume does. Collectively, the authors and editors bring a wealth of knowledge to a fascinating topic.'
Jeff Colgan, Brown University

'The sea and International Relations is a terrific volume that masterfully calls out International Relations' (IR) terrestrial bias, and makes a compelling case for extending IR's conceptual and empirical horizons seawards. Pirates and privateers, merchants, revolutionaries and empire-builders all feature in a scintillating series of interventions that together match formidable historical breadth with startling contemporary relevance. Anchors away, IR scholars - it's time to set sail!'
Andrew Phillips, University of Queensland


Introduction Staring at the sea - Benjamin de Carvalho and Halvard Leira
1 IR's sea sickness: a materialist diagnosis - Alejandro Colás
2 The symbolic space of the sea: mythologising a nation, performing an alliance - Maria Mälksoo
3 The white man and the sea? Gender, race, and foundations of order - Halvard Leira and Benjamin de Carvalho
4 Boundaries in the sea: the production of political space in the early modern colonial Atlantic - Mark Shirk
5 Challenging order at sea: the early practice of privateering - Benjamin de Carvalho and Halvard Leira
6 A sea of connectivity and entanglement: modern mobilities and ancient thalassocracies in the Mediterranean Sea - Andonea Dickson
7 Constructing insecure maritime spaces: navigational technologies and the experience of the modern mariner - Jessica K. Simonds
8 Obligations erga omnes and the common heritage of mankind under the Law of the Sea Convention - Filippa Sofia Braarud
9 Fishing for territory: historical IR and the environment - Kerry Goettlich
Conclusion: International terraqueous relations - Xavier Guillaume and Julia Costa López


Benjamin de Carvalho is a Senior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Relations

Halvard Leira is a Research Professor at the Norwegian Institute of International Relations

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