Call for papers
« You have to have touched the fiery sea, really taken the sea with a naked body, felt the thickness of salt and blood weigh on the flesh like a white tree to know where the lost countries are, to not stop burning waiting. All those who will not have loved the sea, who will not have bathed in his rumor, sucked at night, the wide and capital water, the great grapes of the birth wedding, will not be able to enter into the enthusiasm, will have passed near the open departures. »
(Jean‑Claude Renard, Sea Song, 1950)
The skin, this “first-born of our organs of the senses and also the largest of our method of communication with the outside” (Wolff-Quenot,2001) is what puts us in contact with the elements, in an unceasing dialogue between our inside and outside environment. It has a key role in our representations and perceptions of the environment, since it makes them sensitive. Nature can enter the body like the ocean that penetrates its pores (Andrieu, 2019, 40), its gaps, its folds and its hollows, leaving its mark there through traces of chapping, discoloration or even burns. The ocean acts as a disruptor on the skin microbiota which can lead to certain infections and pathologies according to the ASM. This community of living microorganisms, which is different on each skin before swimming, then becomes identical to all individuals after they have immersed themselves in a similar place. Seawater therefore alters the surface of the body, it softens the wounds and their crusts, reminding maybe the skin, through this imitation of the liquid, that its composition has almost the same salt content as that the majority of the oceans. Thus, our humanity is intimately linked to the marine element, as evoked by the fetal body bathed in the “mothering envelope” (Cupa, 2006) full of amniotic fluid close to the composition of marine waters (Pelizzani, Tovaglieri, 2005, Schirrer, 2015).
And then it is a healing salt water, an ocean-medicine in which one immerses ourselves to dissolve our ailments. The body wrapping in the aquatic matter, the absorption of the element by the organism, or the application of marine derivatives on the skin refers to archetypes of regeneration, erasure of time if not immortality. Immersion in an icy sea in order to firm the skin just as the immune system seizes the body in a piloerection reflex, then awakening, through the skin, the body too sleepy by the everyday life. Thus, the ocean that damages the skin can also cure it, thanks to the various lives it contains, such as plankton or algae. A living water that resonates with the living body, offering it the hope of a certain harmony with the cosmos of which it is a part.
Marine waters have been used for centuries under different cultural areas, for care as well as for body modifications such as the Chuuk Islands in Micronesia, where sea bathing before sunrise would have great virtues, including relieving the abrasive treatments of the labia minora of young girls as part of the embellishment of the female genital organs (Ledesma 2000, 57). These aquatic elements are also endowed with a certain form of magic that would then allow a hybridization between human and non-human thanks to a power of conversion, where the skin would become “smooth as that of a dolphin” as Artaud points out in his work on fishermen from the Banc d’Arquin in Mauritania (2018, 269), or would be covered with scales as some surfers can tell (Sayeux, Sirost,Andrieu, 2021). It is a shared imagination that can be found in many works of fiction, in literature such as the Sea of Michelet (1935) to name just one, just as in traditional tales or in many forms of arts and cultures. Thus, from the stories of the woman-fish, a mermaid found in carved Hongshan jades from the Neolithic era, to the reinterpretation of the myth of Poseidon in the movie Aquaman by James Wan released in 2018, the hybridization of humans and aquatic animals due to immersion in seawater seems to cross eras and continents. The fertile imagination that this element carries in him, as Bachelard described so perfectly, is a matter of life as well as death, of birth as well as of the end, as can be shown by the salty skins.
Anne Sophie SAYEUX, coordinator of the thematic issue
Andrieu B., (2019), « L’osmose émersive », Spirale, 89, 40‑48.
Artaud H., (2018), Poétique des flots. Une anthropologie sensible de la mer dans le banc d’Arguant, Petra, Paris.
Bachelard G., (1942), L’eau et les rêves. Essai sur l’imagination de la matière, Paris : José Corti.
Cupa D. (2006), « Une topologie de la sensualité ; le Moi‑peau », Revue française de psychosomatique, 1/1, 83‑100.
Michelet J., (1983), La Mer, Paris : Folio.
Ledesma B.M., (2000), « Sexe des femmes, sexe des sœurs ; les organes génitaux féminins à Chuuk (Micronésie) », Journal de la Société des océanistes, 110/1, 49‑63.
Pelizzani U., Tovaglieri S., (2005), Apnée, de l’initiation à la performance, Paris : Amphora. https://asm.org/Press‑Releases/2019/June/Ocean‑Swimming‑Alters‑Skin‑Microbiome,‑Increasing
Renard J.-C., (1950), Chant de mer, Haute‑Mer, Paris : Points et contrepoints.
Sayeux A.-S., Sirost O., Andrieu B., (2021), « La maladie de l’oreille du surfeur ; l’imaginaire du soi naturalisé à partir d’une pathologie due à l’immersion en milieu aquatique », L’Évolution Psychiatrique.
Shirrer M., (2015), S’immerger en apnée. Cultures motrices et symbolismes aquatiques, Paris : L’harmattan.
Wolff‑Quenot M.‑J.(2001), In utero ; mythes, croyances et cultures, Paris : Masson.
Publication of the issue is scheduled for winter 2022
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