The Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange: Rewriting Histories and Geographies of the Coast

by Cormac Walsh

In ‘The Frayed Atlantic Edge’ (William Collins, July 2019) historian and experienced sea-kayaker David Gange recounts his journey along the Atlantic coasts of Britain and Ireland, from Shetland to the Channel. In travelling by kayak, Gange immersed himself in the rhythms of the sea and coast and sought to gain new perspectives on the history and geographies of Britain and Ireland, from the perspective of the sea. Drawing on archival and literary sources, he weaves together an account of these Atlantic coasts which challenges head-on dominant narratives of the peripherality and marginality of coastal and island places. He begins with the conviction that British and Irish histories ‘are usually written inside out’, based on the false premise that the ‘land-bound geographies’ of today have existed forever (p. ix).


Image source:

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Microplastics by other means? How microplastics can be a tool for inter/trans-disciplinary engagement

by Sarah Schönbauer & Sven Bergmann

Although there is more and more data about plastic particles in the environment, the impact of microplastic particles on the ecosystem, wildlife and the human body is still unexplored. However, the potential effect of such particles has become a core concern in our contemporary societies, tangible in the far-reaching media coverage or in scientific conferences specifically devoted to engage with microplastics.

In one of such conferences, the Micro2018 in Lanzarote (1) Richard Thompson, professor of biological and marine sciences at the University of Plymouth and the eponym of the term microplastics, gave a keynote. He claimed that besides the unquestionably important role of the natural sciences, the social sciences too should play an important role in future research on plastic particles in the environment. He encouraged social scientists to take part in conferences such as the Micro2018, and stated that this involvement would be beneficial for the overall engagement with microplastics. While we, two scholars in the social and cultural sciences, specifically in the field of cultural anthropology and Science and Technology Studies (STS), think that this is an important claim indeed, we also think that a closer involvement needs to be specified.


Microplastics from Lanzarote © Sarah Schönbauer

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CFP and Registration: Spatial Strategies at the Land-Sea Interface: Rethinking Maritime Spatial Planning, Sept 2019




Spatial Strategies at the Land-Sea Interface: Rethinking Maritime Spatial Planning

11-13th September 2019, University of Hamburg, Institute for Geography


Under the EU Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Directive adopted in 2014, Member States are tasked with the preparation of maritime spatial plans by 2021. These plans are required to ‘take into account land-sea interactions’ and ‘should aim to integrate the maritime dimension of some coastal uses or activities and their impacts’ (EU 2014, 138). Accordingly, inshore territorial waters must be included within either marine spatial plans or land-based spatial plans where they extend beyond the coastline (EU 2014, 140, Article 2:1). Contemporary and future challenges of climate change adaptation, coastal erosion and sea-level rise underline the need for visionary and inclusive spatial strategies at the coast (O’ Riordan et al 2014, Walsh 2019).

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Workshop Announcement: Spatial Strategies at the Land-Sea Interface: Rethinking Maritime Spatial Planning

University of Hamburg: 11-13th September 2019

Under the EU Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Directive, Member States are tasked with the preparation of maritime spatial plans by 2021. These plans are required to take account of land-sea interactions. Experience to date, however, indicates that MSP occupies a different institutional and policy space to land-based terrestrial spatial planning. At the same time as MSP is becoming established as a formal policy instrument applied in a coordinated manner across Europe, European spatial planning has reached an impasse, with a discernible shift away from ambitious spatial strategies over the last two decades. Furthermore, as policies and practices of integrated coastal zone management are displaced through a focus of attention on MSP, there is a risk of a new coastal squeeze where the land and marine become institutionalised as distinct policy spaces. This interdisciplinary workshop aims to explore and critically reflect on the capacity for MSP and spatial planning more broadly to address the challenges posed by the sustainable governance of the land-sea interface. In particular, we will focus on the spatial dimensions of MSP and spatial planning at the coast. Key topics for discussion and reflection include the capacity of MSP to work with relational connections across space and the potential to engage with place-based knowledges and multiple ways of knowing the sea.

Image_collaborative jigsaw

The workshop will include a mix of keynote presentations, interactive break-out sessions and a limited number of research papers solicited through an open call for papers (to be announced shortly).

The workshop will be run jointly under the auspices of the: 1) Marine Spatial Planning Research Network (MSPRN), and

2) AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning) Thematic Group on Transboundary Spaces, Policy Diffusion, Planning Cultures)

The workshop is hosted by the University of Hamburg, Institute for Geography

Lead Organiser: Dr. Cormac Walsh, cormac.walsh(at)uni-

Confirmed keynote speakers include Prof. Simin Davoudi (Newcastle University, UK) and Claudia Bode (THING Collective)


Call for Papers: MARE People and the Sea Conference Panel: Beyond Nature and Culture at the Wadden Sea

by Cormac Walsh & Martin Döring


Sunrise on Schiermonnikoog, Dutch Wadden Sea. (Photo C. Walsh)

Proposed Panel Title: Beyond Nature and Culture: Relational perspectives on the Wadden Sea landscape

 Panel Convenors: Dr. Cormac Walsh & Dr. Martin Döring (University of Hamburg)

The Wadden Sea constitutes a dynamic intertidal coastal landscape, reaching from Den Helder in the Netherlands, along the German North Sea coast to Blavands Huk in southwestern Denmark. This coastal landscape has been shaped over a period of a thousand years or more by dyke-building, land reclamation and drainage practices as well as periodic storm flood events producing a material and symbolically powerful boundary between the land and the sea. Today the intertidal landscape in front of the dykes is recognised as a unique, ecologically rich and diverse ecosystem of outstanding natural value with the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Wadden Sea landscape nevertheless remains a contested landscape imbued with regionally specific cultural values and meanings which serve to challenge the conservationist myth of the Wadden Sea as pure and pristine nature. Against this background, this panel proposes to bring together relational perspectives which seek to transcend the nature-culture divide at the Wadden Sea and offer novel ways of thinking nature and culture together.

In particular we hope to examine and critically reflect on the following aspects:

  • The interrelationships between natural and cultural heritage at the Wadden Sea;
  • innovative approaches to transcending the ‘hard boundary’ of nature and culture in the Wadden Sea landscape;
  • cross-comparative perspectives on the cultural meanings of nature and landscape at the Dutch, German and Danish Wadden Sea coasts;
  • possible Wadden Sea futures drawing on its rich history of nature-culture interactions;
  • challenges of bringing together multiple ways of knowing the Wadden Sea landscape.

 Please submit a title and abstract (max 300 words) to cormac.walsh(at) and doering(at) by 20th December 2018.


Suggested readings / Key References:

    1. Döring, M. & Ratter, B. (2018). Coastal landscapes: The relevance of researching coastscapes for managing coastal change in North FrisiaArea 50, 169-176.
    2. Egberts, L. (2018). Moving Beyond the Hard Boundary: Overcoming the nature-culture divide in the Dutch Wadden Sea area, Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development.
    3. Egberts, L. & Schroor, M. (Eds) (2018). Waddenland Outstanding: History, Landscape and Cultural Heritage of the Wadden Sea Region, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
    4. Krauss, W., (2005). The natural and cultural landscape heritage of Northern Friesland. Int. J. Herit. Stud. 11, 39–52.
    5. Reise, K., 2014. A Natural History of the Wadden Sea: Riddled by Contingencies, Wilhelmshaven Common Wadden Sea Secretariat.
    6. Walsh, C. (2018). Metageographies of coastal management: negotiating spaces of nature and culture at the Wadden Sea. Area 50 (2), 177-185.
    7. Wöbse, A.-K., (2017). Space, Place, Land and Sea: The Ecological ‘Discovery’ of the Global Wadden Sea. In: de Bont, R., Lachmund, L. (Eds.), Spatialiszing the History of Ecology: Sites, Journeys, Mappings. Routledge, London/New York, pp. 204–222.


Dyke History and Dyke Research in Northern Germany: A Conference Report

by Cormac Walsh

On 19th October 2009, an interdisciplinary conference on dyke history and dyke research took place in Stade, a small town in the Elbe marshlands, to the northwest of Hamburg. The conference was organised by the landscape association of the former duchies of Bremen and Werden (Landschaftsverband der ehemaligen Herzogtümer Bremen und Verden e.V.). Over a period of eighteen years the landscape association had commissioned a detailed historical study of the dykes of the Elbe and Weser river landscapes which has been published between 2003 an 2008 in the eight volumes by historians Michael Erhardt and Norbert Fischer.

The front cover of the most recent book of the series “Geschichte der Deiche an Elbe und Weser” (Source: Landschaftsverband Stade). 

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The landscape is a Rubik’s cube and climate change is a rip current – How local landscape narratives influence adaptation to coastal erosion in Cornwall (UK)

by Vera Köpsel

In the autumn of 2015, my interviewee John* and I were standing on a rise at the Atlantic coast of Cornwall (UK) and facing the stormy weather. Storms are common in Cornwall, yet the high frequency of extreme events has begun irritating the locals. John yelled over the crashing waves, “Do you see the steps over there? They used to lead down to the beach, but they were washed away by the waves. Now there are only fifty centimeters to the cliff edge. Not long and the access road will erode into the sea.”

Eroded beach access, Godrevy, Cornwall. (C) Vera Köpsel

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