Monday workshop
Monday, February 20, 2017 - 3:30pm

337 Cohen Hall

Summer Gray, University of California Santa Cruz

Unnatural Fixations: Shoreline Stabilization and Environmental (In)Justice at the Edge of the Sea


Today, seawalls are at the center of a debate about the future, a debate that cuts across academic disciplines and the diverse and situated knowledges of communities throughout the planet. As sea change looms on the horizon, innovations in scientific forecasting have ushered in new understandings of coastal vulnerability while also inviting a host of conflicting views about what to do in the face of environmental change. With nearly half of the world's populations living within 60km of the coast, problems of shoreline instability are so entrenched in histories of colonialism and capitalist development that the planning, construction, and maintenance of coastal infrastructure cannot be separated from issues of environmental justice between rich and poor, developed and underdeveloped nations, and generations past, present, and future. In this context, desires for "hard" structures and technological fixes often clash with struggles for sustainability and climate action. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Guyana, the Netherlands, the Maldives, Venice, and Japan, this talk journeys into the world of adaptive infrastructure, coastal development, and the notion of "anthropocene time" at the water's edge. Interweaving stories of seawalls. artificial islands, and other "unnatural fixations," I explore how infrastructures of shoreline stabilization are embedded within transoceanic flows of knowledge and point to how these knowledges are being renegotiated alongside the changing political and ecological realities of the twenty-first century.