Franziska Torma: Exploration, the media, and the Body: Sensuous Geographies of Ocean Research

Torma is a Research fellow at the Rachel Carson Center (Munich), working on the history of marine biology. Her research interests include the history of science, and the cultural and environmental history of the nineteenth and twentieth century.  She has published on the history of mountaineering, animal protection issues in Africa, on Germany and the oceans, and on the broader field of colonialism. The event is organized in lieu of the corona-postponed  8th Norwegian Conference on the History of Science, and is a collaboration between the conference’s program committee, The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology and the Science Studies Colloquium. More info here.

The discovery of the world beneath the waves in the twentieth century was not only a scientific, but also a sensory endeavor. Diving and filming pioneers like Hans Hass and Jacques-Yves Cousteau dived down underwater, explored the underwater environment and brought pictures of the newly discovered world back to the public on land. This example, the history of underwater film, can be seen as imaginative colonization of one of planet Earth’s final frontiers. This panel wants to discuss media experiences of underwater worlds and how the human body was part of them. The geographer Yi-Fu Tuan has shown that “a yearning for sublime experience” motivated many travels into remote and unexplored regions. Tuan’s research field of sensuous geographies enables us to take the “human nature” of the explorers into account. How were the bodies and the senses engaged in the production of underwater worlds?

This panel considers the ocean not only as a geographical, but also as a sensory frontier. The production of underwater narratives and images was dependent on the capabilities and limitations of the human body as well as on the media the explorers used. How did the sensuous geographies of the underwater world influenced their imaginative power? How did body experiences and narratives contribute to ocean exploitation and/or an understanding of the ocean as ecosystem? I would like to discuss further, if and how particular sensuous geographies of underwater environments emerged in ocean narratives (films and other media) and if and how they differed from imaginations of terrestrial landscapes.


The 45 minutes lecture will be followed by a panel conversation moderated by Thomas Brandt,

Brandt is a professor in History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, and is currently involved in a interdisciplinary research project titled  “The High Seas and the Deep Oceans: Representations, Resources and Regulatory Governance.” He is member of the program committee of the 8th Norwegian Conference on the History of Science.

Published Oct. 9, 2020 3:30 PM - Last modified Oct. 27, 2020 9:36 AM