Corals, Geo-Sociality, and Anthropocene Dwelling




Great Barrier Reef, corals, geo-sociality, Anthropocene


Foreboding reports of the Australian Great Barrier Reef’s peril signal not only a fraught politics but the site’s significance as a potent global environmental imaginary and Anthropocene signifier. In this paper I draw on the site’s ecological emergency and consider what humans could learn from coral life through its evolved fluid-dynamic and planetary relationships. Corals, I argue, offer novel insight into more-than-human ontologies, revealing constitutively solid-fluid ways of being responsive to planetary flux and churn. The research responds to increased interest with multi-disciplinary more-than-human investigation of the ways in which human and nonhuman are inextricably connected, as well as work taking Anthropocene ideas as a generative epistemological and ontological opening.

Drawing on fieldwork in Cairns and on the Great Barrier Reef itself, I use embodied methods to trace encounters both above and below the water. The properties of water and fluidity lead me to contemplate further qualities that liquid and ocean phenomena bring to understanding planetary sociality, revealing a dimensionality and relationality beyond surface and fixed readings. Paradoxically, whilst corals and the Great Barrier Reef are commonly framed as needing our protection, they demonstrate enduring structural resilience and tenacity. Such qualities are highly relevant in contemplating strategies responsive to Anthropocene instability and flux.


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A coral reef underwater