An Elemental Politics

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 41 illustrations Published: September 2021

Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Media Studies

Bringing together media studies and environmental humanities, the contributors to Saturation develop saturation as a heuristic to analyze phenomena in which the elements involved are difficult or impossible to separate. In ordinary language, saturation describes the condition of being thoroughly soaked, while in chemistry it is the threshold at which something can be maximally dissolved or absorbed in a solution. Contributors to this collection expand notions of saturation beyond water to consider saturation in sound, infrastructure, media, Big Data, capitalism, and visual culture. Essays include analyses of the thresholds of HIV detectability in bloodwork, militarism's saturation of oceans, and the deleterious effects of the saturation of cellphone and wi-fi signals into the human body. By channeling saturation to explore the relationship between media, the environment, technology, capital, and the legacies of settler colonialism, Saturation illuminates how the relations and interactions between elements, the natural world, and anthropogenic infrastructures, politics, and processes exist in and through each other.

Contributors. Marija Cetinić, Jeff Diamanti, Bishnupriya Ghosh, Lisa Yin Han, Stefan Helmreich, Mél Hogan, Melody Jue, Rahul Mukherjee, Max Ritts, Rafico Ruiz, Bhaskar Sarkar, John Shiga, Avery Slater, Janet Walker, Joanna Zylinska


“How do elements accumulate and transform? Saturation assembles as a fluid compendium for navigating the phase changes of materiality. Tracking kelp and oil, seismic surveys and submarine films, drought and floods, smart oceans and data centers, the chapters in this collection teem with ideas for how to work within the fluctuating conditions of environments, media, culture, and politics.” — Jennifer Gabrys, Chair in Media, Culture, and Environment, University of Cambridge

“This volume is a tour de force of media theory: the contributors posit saturation not just as one thing that happens in or through or by various media; it is an original and urgent way to understand what media are and do. As a heuristic, saturation draws new lines of relation between issues such as climate change, extraction, militarism, energy, security, biopolitics, and Indigenous sovereignty, among others, in surprising ways. In short, thinking with saturation helps us to see our contemporary condition anew.” — Astrida Neimanis, author of Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Melody Jue is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the author of Wild Blue Media: Thinking through Seawater, also published by Duke University Press.

Rafico Ruiz is currently the Associate Director of Research at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and the author of Slow Disturbance: Infrastructural Mediation on the Settler Colonial Resource Frontier, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1146-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0974-0