Workshop CFP // Exploring an Urban Blue Humanities

Bristol Marina - Celuici, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bristol Marina – Celuici, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

12-13 October 2023

In-person and online

Although they take up only about three percent of the earth’s surface, cities are now home to the majority of humanity. Many of these cities sit on coasts; 24 of the 37 megacities, for example, are coastal. While many of them have storied ports and some in the post-industrial west have undergone redevelopment of old docks and waterfronts into new residential, business and entertainment districts, there is much less appreciation of their nearshore and subtidal environments as necessarily and intimately part of their histories and cultures.

Urban communities imagine and use their nearshore environments in many ways. They see a dumping site for sewage and wastes, a reservoir for their household and industrial effluents. They enjoy beaches, rock pools, scenic cliffs, vistas, and dunes. They enjoy the presence and benefits of seagrass meadows, mangroves, wetlands, and other swampy areas. They delight in non-human animals, birds, seals, dolphins, and others. They contend with dynamic mudflats and tidal flats. They ‘reclaim’ land, moving earth and rock for new homes and infrastructure. They engineer the coast to prevent disaster and damage. They build massive ports and dredge the seabed to channel the movement of commodities and enlarge their economies.

This workshop aims to bring together scholars, artists, and practitioners working on ‘the urban’ and marine/coastal themes within environmental humanities and blue humanities frameworks. We hope to generate an interdisciplinary discussion about the relationships and imaginaries that urban residents and communities develop with their nearshore marine environments. The city is a key site of environmental impacts and climate risks, but can it also be a site for solutions and sustainable futures? How does the marine environment fit into what are often terra-centric visions of city futures and the urban condition? Are ‘smart’ cities and ‘big data’ attentive to the marine world?

We invite papers which address the broad theme of ‘urban blue humanities’ from any place, time, and disciplinary or methodological vantage point within the environmental humanities.


Dr Alessandro Antonello, Flinders University

Dr Paul Merchant, University of Bristol


To propose a paper, please send an abstract of 200-300 words and a brief biography to Alessandro Antonello ( by 9th July 2023. We expect most papers will be 20-minute presentations, but we are also eager to encourage and encounter presentations in other modes and forms.

Organisation details

The workshop will take place both in-person at the University of Bristol and through Zoom.


This symposium is made possible by a British Academy Visiting Fellowship and support from the University of Bristol and Flinders University. We hope to be able to provide a financial contribution towards travel and accommodation for up to 15 participants from outside Bristol.


Dr Alessandro Antonello