Download this publication

By zeroing in on the term ‘heritage’ in the most important international legal instrument on oceans – the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC), this article explores how the concept of the Common Heritage of [Hu]mankind and maritime heritage are produced and deployed in the global legal project of ocean-ordering and the implications thereof. The Common Heritage of [Hu]mankind concept embodies and enacts a dominant resource-centric framing of the ocean. This framing prioritises and valorises the material and economic value of the deep seabed, thereby transmuting it into an oceanless exploitable common. The LOSC, with minimal cultural preoccupation, also conceptualises and confines maritime heritage within a narrow land-based and material-centric understanding of heritage that often prioritises state control and claims. This is because the LOSC is constrained and shaped both by the metaphysical, geographical, and legal tendency of ocean parcelisation and by the authorised heritage discourse that conditions how heritage is understood and practiced. We conclude by suggesting taking the Middle Passage as an analytical provocation, that is to recognise the mutually constitutive and constituting relationship between the Middle Passage and the (Atlantic) Ocean, to enable critical reflections and alternative perspectives on heritage-making in ocean environment.

Hang Zhou

Post Doctoral Researcher

Jieyi Xie

Assistant Professor
Hong Kong Shue Yan University