City upon the Sea: Humanity’s Colonization of the Ocean since the Twentieth Century by Dr Stefan Huebner
Date : 20 Sep 2017
Time : 15:00
Venue : Political Science Lounge, FASS
Block AS1 #04–01, 11 Arts Link
Singapore 117570

This seminar is jointly organised with Department of History, National University of Singapore.


Dr Donna Brunero, Department of History, National University of Singapore.


During the twentieth century, oceanic colonization projects – offshore oil and gas drilling, mariculture (offshore fish farming), and the construction of very large floating structures (VLFS), including floating houses and city extensions – continuously gained in importance. Since the Oil Crisis of 1973, offshore oil drilling experienced a global boom. This boom strongly contributed to UN discussions that culminated in the creation of Exclusive Economic Zones in 1982 (regulating resource exploitation within 200 nautical miles off a state’s coastline). Since about the same time the FAO’s “Blue Revolution”, the maritime equivalent to the “Green Revolution”, intensified the territorialization of the oceans through systematic fish farming as a reaction to overfishing. More recently, renewable energy production through floating solar panels and wind turbines, a climate change induced rising sea level, and Silicon Valley inspired libertarian plans for floating cities started influencing the ocean economy.

This presentation provides a global intellectual, political, and cultural history of oceanic colonization projects since the very early twentieth century. Based on my book project, I address the question why and how oceanic colonization projects and the corresponding “oceanic colonizing mission” of scientific, political, and economic elites accelerated the oceans’ integration into global capitalism.


Stefan Huebner is a historian of colonialism, modernization, and development policy. He is a research fellow at National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute. He was awarded fellowships and scholarships at the Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington, DC), the German Historical Institute Washington, DC, and the German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo. His second book project is a global history of oceanic colonization projects, which connects offshore oil drilling and mariculture (offshore fish farming) to ideas of architects to build floating city extensions and floating cities. He received his PhD from Jacobs University Bremen (Germany) in 2015. His first book, Pan-Asian Sports and the Emergence of Modern Asia, 1913-1974 was published by NUS Press in 2016.