Marine cultural heritage: frontier or centre?

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.1, 2020


Marine cultural heritage: frontier or centre? (Abstract)


Jessica Lehman


Marine cultural heritage is an area of emerging international interest among different sectors of society. Drawing together a diverse set of literatures on marine cultural heritage, maritime archaeology, the development of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, and ocean politics more broadly, this paper examines the ways in which marine cultural heritage might be understood as a frontier in terms not only of spatial territory, but also for knowledge, governance, and politics. As such, marine cultural heritage may bring the disciplinary practices of maritime archaeology into contact with more radical marine politics of postcolonial, subaltern, and Black scholarship. This analysis thus suggests stakes of marine cultural heritage for different communities, reaching far beyond the sites and objects themselves, and shows why marine cultural heritage is emerging as an urgent and dynamic concern at the present moment. Yet ultimately, whether or not marine cultural heritage is truly a frontier is a question that has different meanings depending on the perspective from which it is asked. These differing perspectives illuminate the changing meaning of ocean space as well as struggles over material and immaterial marine resources, and suggest that the frontier is itself a contested concept.