Merpeople are, simply, everywhere: a mermaid is the mascot for the most popular and profitable coffee shop in the world; merpeople have served as key characters in a variety of Hollywood films over the past three decades; and now a child can partake in “mermaid lessons” through a “Mermaid University” program in North America. Even more, images of merpeople decorate children’s (and adults’) clothing, while Apple Inc. recently included merpeople as emojis across their operating systems.
Yet, as Merpeople: A Human History will demonstrate, humanity’s obsession with merpeople is hardly new. From England to Japan to West Africa to Greece to Massachusetts, humans have always integrated ideologies of merpeople into their conceptions of the natural world. Merpeople: A Human Historywill analyze how humans living in the Western world (5000 BCE-present) have characterized merpeople, how such representations have changed over time, and what these changing perceptions reveal about Westerners’ understanding of myth, religion, wonder, science, and, finally, cultural obsession. Ultimately, Merpeople: A Human History uses merpeople to gain a deeper understanding of one of the most mysterious, capricious, and dangerous creatures on Earth: humans.