This essay proposes the category of the oceanic South. It presents the Southern Hemisphere’s blue expanses as one of its defining features and elaborates from this a framework that brings into agitated contention the extractive economies of the North, the persistent legacies of settler colonialism in the South, and other interlocking human and more-than-human itineraries. Tracking a drift into the Southern Ocean in the fiction of J. M. Coetzee, the essay takes this “most neglected of oceans” as a vantage point from which to draw the contours of the oceanic South and engage its troubled surfaces and lively depths. Thinking through the roiling and hostile, fecund, and unbounded nature of this ocean, the essay follows “the lives of whales” in novels by Witi Ihimaera and Zakes Mda. Sounding the ocean’s imaginative depths, these fictions offer illuminating ways of thinking the South while maintaining an unsettling planetarity.

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