An ongoing dumping ground for all of my research, and chance encounters in texts, with posthuman ecological concerns around the ocean and watery embodiment. 

 

All water is connected. [1]

 

My clit turned into a crawling sea monster, hers likewise, until we were nothing but sea monsters leaving trails of slime. [2] 

 

“The ocean,” she said, “is a big lez. I can tell.”

“But not one of history,” I said. 

“No,” she agreed. “Of space and time.” [3]

 

[…] she perceived of herself as a liquid and all of her efforts were, in the end, directed only at containing herself. [4] 

 

A tactile emotion would melt into a visual one, a visual one would melt into an olfactory one […] And so if she didn’t stay alert, if she didn’t pay attention to the boundaries, the waters would break through, a flood would rise, carrying everything off in clots of menstrual blood, in cancerous polyps, in bits of yellowish fiber. [4] 

 

I bled, I cried, I peed, and vomited. I became water. [5] 

 

For, we reflected, what if the entire intrauterine existence of the higher mammals were only a replica of the type of existence which characterised that aboriginal piscine period, and birth itself nothing but a recapitulation on the part of the individual of the great catastrophe which at the time of the recession of the ocean forced so many animals, and certainly our own animal ancestors, to adapt themselves to a land existence, above all to renounce gill-breathing and provide themselves with organs for the respiration of air? [6]

 

If we begin with our first mode of inhabiting, that of inhabiting our own bodies and then experience those bodies as permeable, as open to surrounding human and nonhuman bodies, we can conceive of a corporeal ethics: an ethics that is always “in place” and never a disembodied or free-floating Cartesian affair. [7] 

 

Although the recognition of trans-corporeality begins with human bodies in their environments, tracing substantial interchanges reveals the permeability of the human, dissolving the outline of the subject. [7]

 

If there are no independent entities, then attempts to determine origins could not be corralled into linear narratives but would radiate in innumerable, matted directions. [7]

 

For an oceanic sense of trans-corporeality to be an ethical mode of being, the material self must not be a finished, self-contained product of evolutionary genealogies but a site where the knowledges and practices of embodiment are undertaken as part of the world’s becoming. [7]

 

When they went ashore the animals that took up land life carried with them a part of the sea in their bodies, a heritage which they passed on to their children and which even today links land animal with its origin in the ancient sea. Fish, amphibian, and reptile, warm-blooded bird and mammal – each of us carries in our veins a salty stream in which the elements sodium, potassium and calcium are combined in almost the same proportion as in sea water. This is our inheritance, from the day, untold millions of years ago, when a remote ancestor, having progressed from the one-celled to the many-celled stage, first developed a circulatory system in which the fluid was merely drawn form the sea. In the same way, our lime-hardened skeletons are a heritage from the calcium rich oceans of Cambrian time. Even the protoplasm that streams within each cell of our bodies has the chemical structure impressed upon living matter when the first simple creatures were brought forth in the ancient sea. [8]

 

Why leave the sea? To carry a gift—of life. But it is to the earth that you preach fidelity. And forgetfulness of your birth. [9]

 

But do you come from the earth or the sea to announce this news? Is it fluid depths or solid volume that engendered you? [9]

 

It is always hot, dry, and hard in your world. And to excel you always need a bridge. 

Are you truly afraid of falling back into man? Or into the sea? [9]

 

For there is no greater peril than the sea. Everything is constantly moving and remains eternal in flux. [9]

 

The sea shines with a myriad eyes. And none is given any privilege. Even here and now she undoes all perspective. Countless and shifting and merging her depths. And her allure is an icy shroud for the point of view. [9]

 

If only the sea did not exist. If they could just create her in dreams. If she did not remain forever, eternally living. [9]

 

For everything cannot be touched or embraced at the same time. And the man who gets too close to the other risks merging with it. The man who stays too close to the other risks sinking into it. The man who penetrates the other risks foundering in it. [9]

 

So get away from the sea. She is far too disturbing. She blurs faces and memories. Her depth is too great. Even when she is limpid, her bed never comes to light. [9]

 

And what thoughts had you not had about the fluid world you once inhabited? Sending it back to the bottom or hardening it to make a shell that nothing can leak through. [9] 

 

Over and over and over it made the same sounds, yet never quite the same. It never rested. Of all the shores in all of the lands in all the world, it heaved itself in these unresting waves, and never ceased, and never was still. The desert, the mountains: they stood still. They did not cry out forever in a great, dull voice. The sea spoke forever, but its language was foreign to her. She did not understand. [10]

 

There is no limit to human suffering. When one thinks: “Now I have touched the bottom of the sea—now I can go no deeper,” one goes deeper. And so it is forever. [11]

 

The rocks said nothing. They had the ocean and they had one another. I wondered if they ever got annoyed by the waves’ constant lapping. The daily irritation of their own gradual erosion. Did they secretly long for a tsunami to come eclipse them into the ocean, just to be done with it already? Or did they enjoy the slow, rhythmic tickling? [12] 

 

I felt that if I could eat like Sappho I could somehow get closer to her. Looking at the ocean, a different ocean from hers but also the same, might have a similar effect. [12] 

 

It’s a wonder they can sit down at all, and when they walk, nothing touches their legs under the billowing skirts, except their shifts and stockings. They are like swans, drifting along on unseen feet; or else like the jellyfish in the waters of the rocky harbour near our house, when I was little, before I ever made the long sad journey across the ocean. They were bell-shaped and ruffled, gracefully waving and lovely under the sea; but if they washed up on the beach and dried out in the sun there was nothing left of them. And that is what the ladies are like: mostly water. [13]

 

Blood, bile, intracellular fluid; a small ocean swallowed, a wild wetland in our gut; rivulets forsaken making their way from our insides to out, from watery womb to watery world:

we are bodies of water. [14] 

 

As such, we are not on the one hand embodied (with all of the cultural and metaphysical investments of this concept) while on the other hand primarily comprising water (with all of the attendant biological, chemical and ecological implications). We are both of these things, inextricably and at once – made mostly of wet matter, but also aswim in the discursive flocculation of embodiment as an idea. We live at the site of exponential material meaning where embodiment meets water. [14]

 

But as bodies of water, we leak and seethe, our borders always vulnerable to rupture and renegotiation. [14]

 

Our wet matters are in a constant process of intake, transformation and exchange – drinking, peeing, sweating, sponging, weeping. Discrete individualism is a rather dry, if convenient, myth. [14]

 

Our watery relations within (or more accurately: as) a more-than-human hydrocommons thus present a challenge to anthropocentrism, and the privileging of the human as the sole or primary site of embodiment. [14]

 

Currents of water are also currents of toxicity, queerness, coloniality, sexual difference, global capitalism, imagination, desire, and multi species community. Water’s transits are neither necessarily benevolent, nor are they necessarily dangerous. They are rather material maps of our multivalent forms of marginality and belonging. [14]

 

We are the watery world – metonymically, temporarily, partially, and particularly. Water irrigates us, sustains us, comprises the bulk of our soupy flesh. Yet it isn’t easy to begin with a ‘we’. [14]

 

As a human body, I am somewhat organised, with seemingly discrete borders and boundaries. My skin gives the illusion of a hermetic seal that keeps my intricate plumbing mostly from view, this body appears to me as whole, separate, and organised. But my body of water also breaches the skin sac – regularly, imperceptibly, and also in periodic and demonstrative gushes. [14]

 

A watery body sloshes and leaks, excretes and perspires. Its depths gurgle, erupt. A body of water also extends, transcorporeally, into other assemblages: watershed, cistern, sea; and other bodies that were human, vegetable, animal, and hydrogeological. [14]

 

We have a specific politics of location as bodies of water, but as watery, we also disrupt our own sense of embodied self. In the face of fear, the welling up of water in our affective and visceral bodies can resulted in the sudden and unexpected elimination of tears, or pee, or shit. much eruptions might seem beyond the control of disciplining processes to which we usually subject our visceral selves. […] We could call these experiences of our aqueous becomings a more than human embodiment. They interrupt a comfortable human sense of a bodily self, while also amplifying our very human vulnerabilities – in this sense, human all the more. [14]

 

Even though our bodies are mostly watery, we hit a plunging threshold that we cannot bear: too much destratification, a flooded thingification. [14]

 

There is a viscous porosity of flesh–my flesh and the flesh of the world. The porosity is a hinge through which we are of and in the world. I refer to it as viscous, for there are membranes that effect the interactions. These membranes are of various types–skin and flesh, prejudgements and symbolic imaginaries, habits and embodiments. They serve as mediators of interaction. [15]

 

The viscous porosity of bodies belies any effort to identify a “natural” divide between nature/culture. When I drink coke out of a plastic bottle, I have been taught to think of myself as a natural being and the bottle as a cultural artefact, a product of technology. The bottle is made of naturally occurring materials but is constructed by humans to be a different material or structure than what occurs in nature. The components of the bottle have an agency that transforms the naturally occurring flesh of my body into a different material or structure than what occurs in nature. The parts of the plastic become as much a part of my flesh as the parts of the coke that I drank. Once the molecular interaction occurs, there is no divide between nature/culture, natural/artificial. These distinctions, while at times useful, are metaphysically problematic, for there are important migrations between and across these divides that can be occluded by efforts to posit a dualism. [15]

 

[1] Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater

 

[2] Acker, Kathy My Mother: Demonology

 

[3] Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties 

 

[4] Elena Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child. Book Four of the Neapolitan Novels: Maturity, Old Age

 

[5] Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water 

 

[6] Sandor Ferenczi, Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality

 

[7] Stacy Alaimo, Exposed: Environmental Politics & Pleasures in Posthuman Times

 

[8] Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

 

[9] Luce Irigaray, Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche

 

[10] Ursula le Guin, The Earthsea Quartet

 

[11] Katherine Mansfield, Journal of Katherine Mansfield 

 

[12] Melissa Broder, The Pisces 

 

[13] Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace 

 

[14] Astrida Neimanis, Bodies of Water 

 

[15] Nancy Tuana, ‘Viscous Porosity’