Origin Stories at the End of the World. Blue Materialisms in Antarctica

Ms Susanne Ferwerda1

1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Nietzsche described the world as “a monster of energy, a sea of forces” and upheld the idea that the world is a singular space, at once solid and fluid, definite and somehow eternal. And while he saw no beginning or end to this world, evolutionary biologists generally suppose life had liquid origins. By extension, current debates on the effects of changing climates on human life often focus on the changing state of Earth’s liquids, visualising planetary change in millimeters of sea level rise and an increase of extreme weather events.

In Antarctica, a landmass covered in ice and surrounded by water, stories of beginnings and endings come together. Antarctica has historically been imagined as a continent at the ‘end of the world’: a site of ‘untouched’ wilderness, still unspoiled by human hands. But in recent years, these origin stories of a pristine dessert of ice have given way to more complex Antarctic imaginaries. Drawing on stories of Antarctica that connect beginnings and endings in the Anthropocene, this paper calls for the entanglement of wet, watery and blue materialisms with the stories we tell about the most watery spaces on Earth.


Susanne Ferwerda is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Tasmania. After completing a Research Masters in Gender Studies at Utrecht University, she is currently doing a PhD that examines contemporary oceanic imaginaries in the Anthropocene.

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