Commentary 12 to the manifesto fo rthe marine social sciences: theory development

Hornidge, Anna-Katharina / Achim Schlüter
External Publications (2020)

Maritime Studies 19, 151-152

DOI: 10.1007/s40152-020-00192-0
Open access

The notion of the “Marine Social Sciences” depicts social science research and teaching that empirically focuses on societal interactions with the ocean and its resources. This ranges from the governance of biological and mineral resources from the ocean, as well as oceanic and coastal spaces to living with coastal change processes such as coastal settlement, land subsidence and flooding, sea-level change or the coastal squeeze, and future imaginaries of the ocean ranging from floating cities to underwater dump sites. It is thus an interdisciplinary field of research defined by its research themes and geographic foci rather than by disciplinarily defined theoretical and methodological schools. Its scientific strength lies in the empirical study of society-ocean-coast interdependencies and mutually negotiated sense-making of a highly internationalized, cross-border space of our planet that is increasingly regarded as area of expansion for human activity, becomes technologically accessible, and is so far legally underregulated. Marine Social Sciences thus address substantially understudied fields of human-nature interaction of increasing political and societal relevance.
The Manifesto for the Marine Social Sciences underlines this empirical, international, local level nature of marine social science research with a clear focus on sectors such as fisheries, marine spatial planning, and the blue economy. Further examples for understudied and at the same time societally pressing thematic areas are, for instance, the ongoing legal negotiations on the level of the United Nations regarding biodiversity protection in the area beyond national jurisdiction, the medialization of marine litter, or developments with regard to seabed mining, sea steading, or the construction of floating cities as an attempt to mitigate urban pressures and adapt to coastal changes. The list of thematic fields and objects of empirical scrutiny in regionally diverse locations and on multiple scale levels is, with increasing societal interest in our ocean and its coastal waters, constantly expanding. The manifesto argues for further research in these fields by pointing to societal urgency and emphasizes the value of social science research for improving governance thereof. Theory production is briefly mentioned at the end of the manifesto, yet without further elaboration.

About the author

Hornidge, Anna-Katharina

Development and Knowledge Sociologist

Hornidge

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