The submarine as an object of human creative power

The dissertation project supervised by Prof. Dr. Ruth Schilling and Prof. Dr. Christian Kehrt (TU Braunschweig) examines the history of submarine technology between 1955 and 1990. During the Cold War, submarines developed into a key technology that enabled humans to exploit globally the previously hardly accessible third dimension of the oceans as an operational space for the military, a field of scientific knowledge production, and a place for commercial resource extraction. Therefore, the submarine thus promised human mastery of extreme natural environments like hardly any other technology and played a decisive role in the anthropogenic influence on the oceans in high modernity.

From an environmental, technological, and cultural history perspective, the project investigates how submarines and submersibles not only helped to transform different underwater spaces into usable environments but also how the human role in technological systems changed in the process.

The submarine therefore contains not only a great deal of technology, but also an exciting history of human self-images and cultural constructions of the sea, which anticipated current discourses on the role of technology, humans, and nature in the age of the Anthropocene.


Nils Theinert

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