The ocean as a “terrain vague” of the twenty-first century – the Azorean sea case.

The ocean as a “terrain vague” of the twenty-first century – the Azorean sea case.

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We inhabit territories of relationships and sharing, such as the ocean, which, although already represented on the oldest maps on record, remains significantly vague and unknown.
Philip Steinberg (2001) argued that the sea, like nation-states, has been built over time, that is, physically and symbolically appropriated. Steinberg warned of the convention, deeply rooted in social theories, that the limits of "societies" coincide with those defined by nation-states. This assumption reduces territories like the ocean to a second level, in which "society" is not formed. In this sense, a relevant “terrain vague” of the twenty-first century could be the ocean.
Recently, the authors of «Planetary Urbanization» (2014), Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, influenced by Lefebvre's thinking, have proposed a new theory of urbanization, alerting to the inertia of dominant urban ideologies and their respective views. This is what Lefebvre (1970) wrote, arguing that the urban problem was imposed on a planetary scale, announcing the "urban era" as a new and unknown field. The research in the domains of architecture, urbanism and territory within the Portuguese academia has been hesitant to approach “other” geographies, such as the oceanic space.
The object of this paper is the sea in the Azorean archipelago, due to its unique geopolitical context. Like the terrestrial environment, the surface and "space" of the ocean continue to be instrumented in a radical way - as a means of transport, like sewage, like a battlefield, like cast iron of extraction of resources, as a space for the territorialization of nation-states, among others. Furthermore, it should be noted that, at a time when Portugal is awaiting the result of the submission of its request for extension of Portuguese Continental Shelf, the analysis of tensions and debates on governance in the Autonomous Region of the Azores is of clear importance for the very redefinition of sovereignty, either as a process or as a concept.

Corresponding Author

Vieira Rodrigues, Inês


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Vieira Rodrigues, Inês


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Preferred Track

3. Terrain vague redevelopments

Second Preferred Track

6. Urban policies

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