November 4, 2020

Breathing Underwater

Charne Lavery

This contribution will reflect on the way in which breath changes underwater. Diving compresses air in the body, providing an intimate awareness of otherwise hidden bodily topography as well as a wider awareness of cross-species continuities and planetary constraints. Literary work about the submarine provides insights into the interscalar nature of the experience, its historical resonance particularly in relation to African and Southern imaginaries, and its openings onto speculative underwater futures. Drawing on work about diving and drowning, I explore the relationship between ‘the weather underwater’ and the contemporary breathlessness. The contribution ends with some thoughts about what an underwater perspective has to offer to humanities research, via Astrida Neimanis, Christina Sharpe and Melody Jue.

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Charne Lavery

About Charne Lavery

Charne Lavery is a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Pretoria and researcher on the Oceanic Humanities for the Global South project based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), University of the Witwatersrand ( She explores literary and cultural representations of the deep ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Southern Ocean and Antarctic seas, researching oceanic underworlds of the global South from a postcolonial-ecological perspective. She is the South African Humanities and Social Sciences delegate to the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), co-editor of the Palgrave series Maritime Literature and Culture, and has recently published articles on ‘The Oceanic South’ and ‘Antarctica and Africa’.