A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows

Jessica Lehman

jlehman3@wisc.edu
2016-2018 Climates and Natures Fellow
Department of Geography and Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies

Planetary Sea: Oceanography and the Making of the World Ocean

Lehman's project explores the politics of science at the planetary scale by studying how the ‘world ocean’ has come to be known as a single dynamic entity with a special relationship to life on Earth. This work addresses a challenge of at the heart of contemporary environmental thought: the imperative to ‘scale up’ our analyses to encompass entire geophysical systems and humanity as a species, while attending to local particularities and radically varying and frequently unjust life experiences. This project shows how geopolitics, power relations, and ideas about nature shape, and are shaped by, international scientific programs that address the ocean at a global scale. Ultimately, Lehman proposes an alternative reading of international oceanographic science. This allows her to formulate the notion of the ‘ocean archive,’ which draws together insights from oceanographic science and postcolonial scholarship to consider different ways of conceptualizing the nature of history. 

Jessi Lehman is a geographer and interdisciplinary scholar interested most broadly in environmental politics, uncertainty, and inequality. She received an M.A. from the University of British Columbia, and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Minnesota, where she was also a fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change. Her Ph.D. project focused on the geopolitics of ocean space and international oceanographic science, and involved archival research and interviews in the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. She also has undertaken broader work on the politics of environmental change and resource extraction. She is currently at work a project entitled "Planetary Sea: Oceanography and the Making of the World Ocean."