Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Henry Geddes

Second Advisor

Briankle Chang

Third Advisor

Krista Harper

Subject Categories

Critical and Cultural Studies


This dissertation focuses on the following questions: 1) How do multispecies engagements rhetorically reconfigure the human, the shark and, to some degree, the ocean? and 2) How do such multispecies engagements refigure value relevant to conservation? These questions are explored within a framework of shark conservation as a field of biopolitics exploring the tensions inherent in the project of transforming sharks from killable enemies to valuable, living selves and the constraints and potentials that come into view when new relational possibilities emerge. Conservation practices, especially biodiversity conservation practices, are not merely management choices; they are political choices that shape future worlds. Further, this dissertation is an inquiry into the relationship between rhetoric, materiality, and conservation aimed toward a relational ontology of the ocean, in which human beings and many others co-constitute the ocean. By examining what three selected assemblages tell us about ocean epistemologies and the biopolitics of ocean conservation, I show that conservation as a project continues to emerge from intra-actions that are not predetermined—even by such hegemonic global meta-assemblages as capitalism or biodiversity conservation—but characterized by entangled relations between sharks and human beings that enable or constrain sustainable relations with the ocean. The assemblages considered are constituted by human-shark encounters through the practices of tagging and real-time tracking of sharks; diving to engage sharks; and culling sharks, that is, killing sharks to eliminate threats to human beings. These embodied practices variously assemble scientists, divers, participants in local and national fishing industries, activists, sharks, environmental governmental and non-governmental agencies, the media, audiences, and communication and underwater technologies. I map how assemblages coalesce around the practices, how their arrangements shed light on ocean matters of concern, the ontological disturbances that may give rise to potential transformations. These assemblages are performative in that they embody rhetorical struggles over biodiversity conservation, human-animal relations, and ethics.