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The Sea: A Cultural History [Paperback]

John Mack
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 17.95
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Book Description

1 Aug 2013
'There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting and enslaving than the life at sea,' wrote Joseph Conrad. There is certainly nothing more integral to the development of the modern world. In The Sea: A Cultural History, John Mack considers those great expanses that both unite and divide us, and the ways in which human beings interact because of the sea, from navigation to colonization to trade. Much of the world's population lives on or near the coast, and people inhabit and engage with the sea in a variety of ways. The Sea explores the diversity of seas themselves, maritime technologies (especially the practice of navigation), and different cultures surrounding the sea. Seafarers have characteristic social and technical practices, as well as having distinctive language and customs. Many cultures have created a society of the sea, which is usually all-male, often cosmopolitan and always hierarchical. The separation of sea and land is evident in the use of different vocabularies on land and on sea for the same things, the change in a mariner's behavior when on land and in the liminal status of points uniting the two realms, like beaches and ports. Ships are also deployed in symbolic contexts on land, from ship burials to ecclesiastical and public architecture. The two realms - land and sea - are never completely separate. Casting a wide net, The Sea uses histories, maritime archaeology, anthropology, art history, biography and literature to provide an innovative and experiential account of the waters that surround us.

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The Sea: A Cultural History + Seven-Tenths: The Sea and its Thresholds
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books; Reprint edition (1 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780231849
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780231846
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"'I am a part of the sea and the sea is part of me, ' muses a Torres Straits elder, and John Mack brings readers to just such recognition of their own places in the world. In his able hands, seas become places and not merely The Great Between. They have their own histories, and demand sophisticated technologies of exploration, exploitation, and intellectual fathoming. Through many years of museum scholarship, Mack has perfected a grand, sweeping vision matched by delight in deepest detail, and here he tells compelling stories about 'ships as societies, ' 'sea gypsies, ' and the hundred named 'seamarks' in open water known to residents of Mabuiag Island. Welcome aboard!"- Allen F. Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles --Allen F. Roberts

About the Author

John Mack is Professor of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth persevering 1 Jan 2014
I almost gave up on this book at the introduction - felt that I didn't want to re-conceptualise the sea or consider the beach as a liminal space. Perhaps academics forgot just how off-putting such jargon can be. Like any writer they should be encouraged to show and not tell, involve the reader first, then introduce the intellectual spin (if you must). However, once I moved on to the voyages of exploration in chapter one - the spiritually trusting Irish monk and the astounding Polynesians - I was hooked. The explanations that linked ocean currents to ship design then to the potential for discovery were clear and interesting though I'd have loved some maps at this point. Later I was happy to be helped to re-think what a map might be in different cultural contexts and to consider the differences between, say, way-faring and navigation. Much fascinating material and stimulating juxtapositions from around the globe. Some maritime cultures not explored or explored less fully that others but this kept the book to a reasonable length and I felt I had gained a great deal from reading it. Recommended.
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