Halvard Leira
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Benjamin de Carvalho
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The white man and the sea? Gender, race and foundations of order
in The Sea and International Relations
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Understanding how the sea has been constructed and ordered throughout the centuries requires us not only to evoke and critique changing notions of space and time but demands a broader and deeper dive into underlying conceptions of order, such as race and gender. The aim of this chapter is to explore if and how conceptions of gender and race have operated – and still operate – to normalise the relationship of domination of ‘the white man’ over the sea.

Challenging the traditional Western/Anglo-American representations of the sea as wild, unruly and seductive; qualities diametrically opposed to the orderliness and structure of idealised masculinity, and in need of subjugation to a male order, as well as the vast, dark mysterious and endless space surrounding known (European) lands, is important, as the gendering and racialisation of the sea has led to forgetting and normalisation. This is forgetting of the many different ways in which gender and race have been intertwined with ocean life, and normalisation of an idealised Westernised and masculine approach to the sea.

Our exploration comes in three parts. In the first part, we briefly discuss the traditional, masculinised and Eurocentric view of the ocean as expressed in Western discourse over the last centuries. We then discuss the literature locating women and race and deconstructing hegemonic white masculinity in and around the oceans, as it has developed over the last four decades. Finally, we suggest avenues of research for International Relations, building on and pursuing further the insights from neighbouring disciplines.

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