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Sea Life

Ships, Culture, and the History of Global Waterways



Ships carrying people, goods, and ideas began sailing into Charleston Harbor 350 years ago. They still arrive today with cargo, tourists, and diverse sailors from around the world. In the spirit of this ongoing, international maritime history, the LCWA World Affairs Signature Series invites scholars, students, and the community to explore Sea Life, and how history, literature, culture, and sciences are shaped by the ocean.




World Affairs Signature Series


The emergence of transoceanic travel in the sixteenth century marked a fundamental shift in global history, as cultures, ideas, and goods began to travel beyond their geographical confines. Since then, ships, the sea, and their ports of call have long stood as “paradigms of human existence.” When describing the Indies Fleet’s home port of Seville, sixteenth- century, Spanish poet Fernando de Herrera wrote that the ports are not cities but the horizon, a space where “everything that is scattered upon the earth comes together.” In his classic study of the African diaspora, The Black Atlantic, Paul Gilroy uses the metaphor of a ship to show the importance of movement in the shaping of modernity, especially in relation to the black experience in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. “The image of the ship,” Gilroy argued, is “a living, micro-cultural, micro-political system in motion.” Likewise, H. Stuart Hughes’s classic study of Jewish emigrants to the US in the 1930s is entitled “Sea Change,” and the Puritan settlement of New England is always bound up with the legacy of a single vessel: The Mayflower.

For the 2020 World Affairs Signature Series, the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs invites faculty members, students, and the community to trace maritime routes and historical roots that link port cities around the world. Ships carrying people, goods, and ideas have been sailing to Charleston since at least the 1600s. They still arrive  today  with  cargo,  tourists,  and  diverse  sailors.  In  the  spirit   of   this ongoing international maritime history, we invite academics and community leaders to share their knowledge about the history and culture of  their  respective  ports  and  seas of interest, whether it be from Charleston, the Caribbean, the Atlantic World, or  from more distant seas and ports. The signature series is meant to be both comparative and interconnected when considering the importance of sea life.

“At port, everything that is scattered upon the earth comes together”
Fernando de Herrera, 1619