Islands & Utopias

My interest in oceans has led to my involvement with the community of critical island scholars who question the assumed nature of islands (and island cultures and biota) as isolated and homogeneous in favor of a perspective that recognizes porous borders and continual processes and practices of interconnection and internal differentiation. Once islands are reconsidered as points of contact, then oceans become critical spaces of connection, and attention must also be directed to the bridges (as well as maritime ocean routes) that bind the space of island dwellers.

My work on islands has led me to assume a position on the Steering Committee of the International Geographical Union’s Commission on Islands as well as positions on the editorial board of Island Studies Journal and the Rowman & Littlefield ‘Rethinking the Island‘ book series.

My island work is in five areas:

  • In 2004 and 2005, I conducted two linked studies of Key West, Florida an island that is anything but isloated as it exists as a historic bridge between the U.S. and Cuba. Additionally, as a major tourist destination — and, in particular, as a destination for gay male tourists — the island is a space in which individuals negotiate between identities of “home” and “away,” “familiar” and “exotic,” “straight” and “gay,” and “U.S.,” “Latino,” “Caribbean,” and something all together different.  Much of my research in Key West has been conducted in collaboration with Tom Chapman, of Old Dominion University. Parts of this research were funded by Florida State University’s DeVoe L. Moore Center.  This research also connects with my more policy-oriented interest in the region, expressed through my involvement in Florida State’s Inter-American Seas Research Consortium.
  • A second arena in which I engage island studies is in my work on Arctic sovereignty, particularly in the context of the Canadian archipelago and in the geophysical nature of the Arctic as a region where the boundaries between mainland, ocean, and islands are complicated by the cover of ice, a theme that dovetails with the work of the ICE LAW Project.
  • Linking these two regions together has been my growing interest in the Mediterranean and what it means when both the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean are labeled as ‘new Mediterraneans’ that, like the ‘original’ Mediterranean, are insular seas (in both senses of the word) in which worlds meet.
  • The fourth area overlaps with my interest in representation (especially cartographic representation), particularly in my study of island depictions on Early Modern maps and the ways in which they informed emergent norms of state territoriality.
  • The fifth area in which I have been applying my interests in island imaginaries and development possibilities is through my research on futuristic urban-maritime architecture, particularly as promoted by the libertarian Seasteading movement, which joins my research in utopian idealization of islands with my interests in both cities and U.S. political movements.

My publications on islands and utopias include:

  • Insularity, sovereignty, and statehood: the representation of islands on portolan charts and the construction of the territorial state (Geografiska Annaller B, 2005) | PDF (behind paywall)
  • Bridging the Florida Keys (in Bridging Islands: The Impact of Fixed Links, Acorn, 2007) | Website
  • Key West’s Conch Republic: building sovereignties of connection (with Tom Chapman; Political Geography, 2009) | PDF (behind paywall)
  • Liquid urbanity: re-engineering the city in a post-terrestrial world (in Engineering Earth: The Impacts of Megaengineering Projects, Springer, 2011) | Website
  • Atlas Swam video abstract
    Click image for video

    Atlas swam: freedom, capital, and the seasteading vision (with Elizabeth Nyman & Mauro Caraccioli; Antipode, 2012) | PDF (behind paywall) | Companion Video (open access)

  • Island or continent? (in The Political Economy of Divided Islands: Unified Geographies, Multiple Polities, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) | Website
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