Current Call for Papers

WSQ Call for Papers: Special Issue


Guest editor: Terri Gordon-Zolov, The New School

At no time since the age of piracy in the mid-17th to early 18th century has the open sea been a more tumultuous place. The high seas are the locus of dangerous migrant/refugee crossings, of piracy and lawlessness, and of massive environmental destruction. A slew of accidents, from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean in March 2014 to the ferry accident in Bangladesh in February 2015, have led to international concern over safety standards. The ocean itself, with its rising sea levels and massive deposits of debris, embodies the hazards of environmental change. This WSQ issue invites submissions that mobilize the motif of “at sea” on a literal or figurative level. Scholarly articles, fictional pieces, poetry and artwork should deal with gender issues, broadly construed. Academic and fictional pieces that treat contemporary questions concerning women, gender, sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues and/or disability studies are welcome.

In its current form, the contemporary global migrant/refugee crisis is without precedent. Escaping violence, poverty, civil war, and religious persecution, thousands of families and individuals (often children) from Africa and the Middle East are making perilous journeys across the Mediterranean in fishing boats or overcrowded ships. Their fate often lies in the hands of a network of smugglers and traffickers. Women and girls fleeing from Thailand, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries may face the choice between forced marriage and the commercial sex trade. The statistics are startling. According to a recent United Nations Refugee Agency report, over 600,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year alone, and over 3,000 have perished or disappeared in the crossing. Rising tides of xenophobia, and Islamophobia in particular, only make the issues of refugee status and asylum more acute.

Maritime violence is also on the rise. Our dependency on the sea has increased exponentially while our ability to control it remains unchanged. The majority of goods in the global economy are transported across international waters in merchant ships and cargo boats. Because of inconsistencies in maritime law and difficulty in enforcing national and international maritime codes, crimes, ranging from racketeering to summary executions, usually go unreported or unprosecuted. Human cargo, in the form of stowaways, indentured servants, and migrants, is the cost of this exploding and unregulated economy. Contemporary maritime practices have also taken a heavy toll on the environment. Overfishing has depleted fish species and populations and altered the ecological balance of marine communities. Oil spills have far-reaching environmental consequences, damaging not only sea life, birds and mammals, but also water supplies and entire ecosystems. The long-term consequences of the production and transportation of fossil fuels is still to be determined. At the moment, global warming has lead to rising sea levels and the disintegration of sea shelves in the Arctic and Antarctic.

The force and nature of the sea has long captured the literary and artistic imagination. From biblical narratives of the flood and “Jonah and the Whale” to romantic images of the sublimity of the sea to realistic artworks of seascapes and shipwrecks, the sea has been a predominant trope in art and literature. The horrors of the Middle Passage have been captured in countless slave narratives and artworks. Modern novels, such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), Woolf’s The Waves (1931) and Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea (1951), draw upon the trope of the beauty and danger of the sea. Narratives of the sea often have a gendered dimension. Representations of the aquatic (water, waves), mermaids, and ships have been cast as “feminine” while pirates and sailors have long been drawn as prototypically “masculine.” We seek to interrogate such gendered norms and to question ways in which gender and sexuality deeply inform both the reality and representations of experiences of the sea. “At sea” does not only refer to the actual sea, but also to the state of being adrift, lost, unmoored, without bearings. This issue reflects on the existential experience of being “at sea,” considering ways in which individuals and communities may experience a lack of bearings due to oppressive cultural or legal codes and norms. The metaphorical dimensions of the term “at sea” may provide fertile grounds for current work in race, gender, LGBTQ and disability studies.

Please submit literary, theoretical and/or fictional work related to the “at sea” motif. Themes we are interested in exploring include, but are not limited to, the following:

Sea crossings: the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, etc.

Global migrant/refugee crisis

Trafficking of women and children

Southeast Asian labor migration practices

National borders and maritime borders

Asylum and refugee policies

Xenophobia, Islamophobia, fear of terrorism


Modern piracy: racketeering, summary executions, stowaways, etc.

Cargo: human cargo, physical cargo

Environmental destruction: overfishing, oil spills, pollution, rising sea levels, floating icebergs

Natural resources: oil, food, energy

Climate change/global warming

Metaphor of sea/waves in art and literature

Contemporary travel literature

Migrant narratives

Marginalized individuals/communities and the state of being “at sea:” race, gender, LGBTQ and disability studies

Mental health issues and experiences

Possibilities of resistance and change to contemporary maritime practices on local and global levels

Utopias: underwater living, ocean turbines, floating utopias

Scholarly articles should be sent to WSQAtSea [at][] by March 1, 2016. Please send complete articles, not abstracts. Submissions should not exceed 6,000 words (including un-embedded notes and works cited) and should comply with the formatting guidelines at[].

Poetry submissions should be sent to WSQ's poetry editor at WSQpoetry [at][] by March 1, 2016. Please review previous issues of WSQ to see what type of submissions we prefer before submitting poems. Please note that poetry submissions may be held for six months or longer. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if the poetry editor is notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere. We do not accept work that has been previously published. Please paste poetry submissions into the body of the e-mail along with all contact information.

Fiction, essay, and memoir submissions should be sent to WSQ's fiction/nonfiction editor at WSQCreativeProse [at][] by March 1, 2016. Please review previous issues of WSQ to see what type of submissions we prefer before submitting prose. Please note that prose submissions may be held for six months or longer. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if the prose editor is notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere. We do not accept work that has been previously published. Please provide all contact information in the body of the e-mail.