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This talk will explore how the photomedia of seaweeds offer valuable perspectives on sustainability and its conceptualization. Many dreams of seaweed futurity are entangled with aspirations to enact more sustainable futures—the future of food, the future of biofuels, the future of bioplastics. Yet beyond their biopolitical management as resources, seaweeds lead me to consider the epistemic preconditions of sustainability and management. Photographic media about seaweeds sometimes depend on the photomedia of seaweeds. At the same time, what I call the “metabolic photography” of seaweeds parallels the desire of sustainability practices to change global metabolisms. Yet in a Hawaiian context, seaweeds (limu) show how sustainability must include Indigenous knowledge and ecological conservation. Concluding with a discussion of Hawaiian cyanotypes and limu photography, I show how “holding sway” not only names the interest of sustainability projects in seaweeds, but a seaweed-centered aesthetic of care by which limu are framed by the hands.
Melody Jue is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Wild Blue Media: Thinking Through Seawater (Duke University Press, 2020), which won the 2020 Speculative Fictions and Cultures of Science book award, and is co-editor with Rafico Ruiz of Saturation: An Elemental Politics (Duke University Press, 2021). Professor Jue has published articles in journals including Grey Room, Configurations, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Resilience, and Media+Environment. Her new work explores the mediations of seaweeds in trans-Pacific contexts.