My postdoctoral research project “Sand – The Future of Coastal Cities in the Indian Ocean” thinks with the contemporary socioecological conditions of Indian Ocean port cities and the material faculties of sand to show how its materiality organizes and even governs practices of coastal protection.

The project defines coastal protection as infrastructural investments aimed at preserving life and social institutions at water’s edge. This work is carried out by coastal communities themselves, but also by hired workers or conservationist actors. Ethnographic research in Denpasar aims at revealing contemporary human entanglements with sand in the context of this work and the social effects of building futures with it. Documenting projects of coastal protection will provide clues as to the unseen operations of sand in making and unmaking coastal life while showing how they are tied into larger structures of resource extraction and urban governance.

By shifting the lens to sand itself – a material ‘thing’ with infinitely flexible, destructive and augmentative capacities – the project will not just think in new ways about human problems of territory, politics, ecosystem, and survival. It proposes essentially new ideas and methods for the study of emerging socionatures in the Anthropocene.

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