Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Lines of Division, Lines of Connection: Stewardship in the World Ocean

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

Lines of Division, Lines of Connection: Stewardship in the World Ocean

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. This article investigates the history of drawing lines across ocean space. Although drawing lines generally is perceived as an act of division--as exemplified by the line drawn through the Atlantic Ocean by Pope Alexander VI in 1493--lines, like the ocean itself, often signify connection or other, more complex social relationships. In an attempt to break through commonly held perspectives on line drawing in marine governance, I suggest that key events (and lines) of modern marine history are characterized by a common norm of stewardship. I conclude by considering the flexibility of stewardship and by alerting the reader to alternate norms that could be used to generate ocean-governance systems. Keywords: marine governance, marine history, ocean space, stewardship, Treaty of Tordesillas.

Historians of marine governance frequently assert that the modern history of social regulation in the world ocean may be read as one of alternating currents for and against division and territorial enclosure (Colombos 1967; Gold 1981; O'Connell 1982; Anand 1983). On one hand, these scholars note, events and proclamations such as Hugo Grotius's 1608 The Freedom of the Seas, the nineteenth-century "free-seas" policy imposed under Pax Britannica, and the nonterritorial self-regulation practiced by the maritime-transport industry in the twentieth century represent attempts at constructing the ocean as a friction-free void wherein nascent colonial empires and enterprising merchants could establish lines of connection with farflung terrestrial territories, production sites, and markets. On the other hand, as interaction with the ocean has intensified overtime, the ocean itself has come to be perceived as a space of resources, whether the resource is that of connection or something more material, such as fish or min erals. Because the modern system of competitive capitalist production governed by multiple, sovereign states encourages territorialization, or spatial enclosure, as a means of commodifying and guaranteeing rents from resources, the modern era has been characterized by a number of proclamations and events that generally are perceived as drawing lines designed to foster the enclosure, possession, and management of ocean space. Among the notable events were the 1493 Papal Bull, the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, John Selden's 1635 Of the Dominion; or, Ownership of the Sea, the Truman Proclamations of 1945, and various provisions of the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, including both its regime of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZS) and its regime for management of the International Seabed Area.

The contradictory tendencies in modern-era marine governance--both the tendency to enclose ocean space with lines of division and the tendency to construct it as a friction-free surface characterized by lines of connection--may be viewed as reflecting the ebb and flow of contradictory tendencies in the spatiality of capitalism (Steinberg 1999b). In this article I focus less on the changes that have characterized the modern-era regime than on its continuity, from the late fifteenth century through the present. In particular, I assert that in the modern era the drawing of lines in ocean space--whether lines of division or lines of connection--can be seen as attempts to steward the ocean as a space that, on one hand, is immune to territorial incorporation into individual states or the system of states but that, on the other hand, is susceptible to social intervention in pursuit of specific goals.

To develop this point, I begin with a careful reading of what is generally taken as a particularly extreme act of line drawing in modern marine history, the 1493 Papal Bull and the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas. These documents affirm a norm of marine stewardship that falls somewhere between the construction of the sea as a space amenable to enclosure and its construction as a protected space of connection immune to social actors' exertions and desires. …

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