The inaugural postdoctoral fellowship lecture: an encrusting ocean

The Sydney Environment Institute introduces its new Postdoctoral Fellowship Lecture, that celebrates the contributions and careers of our Postdoctoral Research Fellows during their time with us.

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This inaugural lecture recognises the inquisitive and critical research of Killian Quigley, whose fellowship at the Institute will leave a remarkable legacy. Through his scholarship and his colleagueship, Killian has become an internationally-recognised figure in the oceanic humanities, with his research spanning literary history to aesthetic theory and delving deep into the environmental humanities.

Under the surface of the sea, encrusting marine life-forms take shape among and upon diverse substrates, “artificial” as well as “natural” — shipwrecks clad in sponges, oil platforms adorned with cup corals, aquaculture cages “fouled” by hydrozoans. Unlike the depth and stability evoked by soily rootedness on land, encrustation frequently connotes the superficial, the ornamental, the accidental, and the even the invasive.

This talk, which draws primarily on the discourses of Western science, aesthetics, and environmental humanities, asks how these encrusting lives challenge received impressions of place, relation, motility, and even life.

This event was presented online and at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 1 December.


Killian Quigley is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Sydney Environment Institute. His research spans literary history, aesthetic theory, the history of science, colonial and postcolonial studies, historical geography, and the environmental humanities. He is co-editor of The Aesthetics of the Undersea, author of articles on plastic, marine pastoral, and other subjects, and was researcher in residence, recently, with Works on Water/Underwater New York. He is the Research Lead on Unsettling Ecological Poetics and Ocean Ontologies.

David Schlosberg (chair) is Professor of Environmental Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. 

Head image: Demamiel62, via Shutterstock.