Coastal Urbanities

Mobilities, Meanings, Manoeuvrings


This volume explores how the city and the sea converse and converge in creating new forms of everyday urbanity in archipelagic and island Southeast Asia. Drawing inspiration from case studies spanning Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and New Caledonia, the volume rethinks the place of the sea in coastal cities, through a mobility-inspired understanding of urbanity itself. How might conceptualisations of contemporary coastal urbanisms be approached from the sea, in ways that complicate singularly terrestrial, fixed framings of the city? What connections, contradictions, and dissonances can be found between sea change and urban change? While addressing these questions, the authors re-centre more marginal voices of those who dwell and work in islanded metropoles, offering new insights on the futures and contested nature(s) of littoral urban transformation.

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Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa is Senior Scientist at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (Germany). Her work examines littoral lifeworlds, decolonial island relations, and speculative infrastructural futures while drawing on mobile, multimodal ethnographic approaches. She is author of Fishing, Mobility and Settlerhood: Coastal Socialities in Postwar Sri Lanka (Springer, 2018), and is co-editor of the anthology Rebel Wom!n: Words, Ways, and Wonders (DIO Press, 2023).

Kelvin E.Y. Low is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the National University of Singapore. His main research interests include sensory studies, migration and transnationalism, social memory, and food and foodways. He is author or editor of four books with the most recent being Senses in Cities: Experiences of Urban Settings (Routledge, 2017).

Noorman Abdullah is Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and holds a joint-appointment as Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Malay Studies, National University of Singapore. He focuses primarily on religion and society, deviance and social control, together with sensory studies. His publications have appeared in journals such as American Behavioral Scientist, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies and Asian Journal of Social Sciences.

Anna-Katharina Hornidge is Director of the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) and Professor for Global Sustainable Development at the University of Bonn. She works on knowledges and innovation for international development, and questions around natural resource governance in agriculture and fisheries in Asia and Africa. She is co-editor of multiple books including The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (Routledge, 2018).
"Breaking down the lines that falsely separate land and sea, city and shore, wet and dry, this carefully collated, beautifully curated text provides critical scholars researching coasts, islands, seas and cities a deep reflection of the intersections, relations and entanglements of these spaces: how the urban and the ocean coalesce, crash, creep, collide and create worlds anew – on and offshore and the spaces between. A must-read text at a moment of climate crisis, rising seas, ecological decline and human response – this volume offers profoundly necessary empirical and theoretical contributions to understanding complex social ecologies in the context of postcolonial histories. It presents a myriad of perspectives often marginalised by mainstream western scholarship, for better grasping, understanding, resisting and struggling against environmental changes in the littoral zones where land and sea meet, mix and meld in urbanities. It also offers empirical specificity to Southeast Asia but is absolutely not a book only for scholars interested in this world region. It is a reminder of the importance of this part of the world, its global reverberations and echoes, and its situated significance. The book cuts across disciplinary lines and perspectives, career stages, institutional geographies, and brings in voices from beyond the conventional academy."
– Kimberley Peters, Marine Governance, Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity, Germany

"Science, technology, and society (STS) work carried out in archipelagic countries should focus more on theorizing littoral spaces. This book is a rare and much needed attempt at theorizing life that is both oceanic and terrestrial, the life that dominates and characterizes human and more-than-human assemblages in archipelagic countries. Maritime STS work in Southeast Asia and elsewhere would, therefore, benefit from this book when it needs to examine the limits and porosity of the maritime world, and the material traffics between the ocean and the hinterland."
– Fadjar I. Thufail, National Research and Innovation Agency, Indonesia

"This volume charts a significant and vital contribution to the understanding of contemporary urban lifeworlds by the sea. Assembling original scholarship on coastal cities in Southeast Asia, it allows to rethink urbanity through the lens of the coastal."
– Lukas Ley, University of Heidelberg, Germany
The volume is of interest to those who work on historic and contemporary urbanities in maritime Asia and beyond, environmental history, environmental philosophy, critical ocean studies, coastal and urban geography, development studies, environmental planning and governance, together with critical studies on risk, vulnerability, and disaster.
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