Elizabeth Leane
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Cryonarratives for warming times
Icebergs as planetary travellers
in Ice humanities
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In the Anthropocene, icebergs have moved from the periphery to the centre of global public consciousness, their ephemerality and mutability ominously signalling the changes operating at a planetary level. The calving of a giant tabular iceberg is now understood as a political event, framed by global media headlines not only as a visual spectacle but also as a source of communal fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger. At the same time, tourists have been visiting the Antarctic region in exponentially increasing numbers – a trend that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted but is unlikely to stop. Iceberg encounters are a key part of this experience, even while the icescape itself is impacted by anthropogenic warming, to which the travel required to reach the Antarctic region is a contributor. In this chapter, I propose a new term, ‘cryonarrative’, as shorthand to describe contemporary stories that explore interactions between humans and ice, and suggest ways in which this term might help us think about the current meanings being assigned to icebergs. Within tourism and media contexts, icebergs are often subject to reductive narratives that render them as aesthetic objects for human consumption or symbols of human doom. As a counter to this anthropocentric approach, I consider the advantages of characterizing and narrating icebergs as travellers on a planetary scale whose journeys are interconnected with our own.

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Ice humanities

Living, working, and thinking in a melting world


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