Benjamin de Carvalho
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Halvard Leira
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Staring at the sea
in The Sea and International Relations
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For an academic discipline dealing with the global, it is peculiar that International Relations (IR) has limited its gaze to a little less than 30 percent of the globe – the landed part. With sea-level rise, depletion of fish stocks, plastic pollution and piracy making the news repeatedly and constantly, it is obvious that the sea matters in international relations. It should also matter to the discipline studying these relations. In related disciplines, burgeoning literatures have recast the importance of the sea for understanding both the past and the present. Time has come for IR to catch up. This would benefit the discipline, but it would also make contributions to a better understanding of the sea. With its diverse approaches to conflict, cooperation and political co-existence, IR has obvious insights to bring to the study of the sea. In this chapter we discuss how and why IR has engaged (or not) with the sea, we explore what other disciplines can offer IR and we suggest some possibilities for fruitful engagement. We first explore why the sea has been missing from IR and the challenges facing us when trying to theorise the sea. Then we engage with the developing literature in other disciplines from the last two decades, illustrating why an IR-take makes sense, and where there is room to expand on the existing IR literature. The third section puts the focus on politics, circulation and control, before the last section lays out how the different chapters of the book engage with these overarching topics.

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