Universitas Indonesia Conferences, 7th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Amphibious Life and the Political Economy of Moving Earth
Joseph R. Klein

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 126
Date: 2019-07-25 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Last modified: 2019-06-18


Land reclamation projects both big and small are redrawing the coastlines of Eastern Indonesia. The island of Sulawesi provides key focus: on the island’s west coast Dutch contractors dredge reefs and fisheries to build artificial islands for luxury property development along the coasts of urban centers. On the east coast, layered histories of dispossession hide stories of cities built on swamps. Meanwhile, communities in the coastal hinterland buy displaced earth by the truckload from nickel mines backed by Australian, US, and Chinese capital. When the trucks dump dirt on mudflats and mangroves, certain forms of amphibious life give way to the political economic force of land title. Small coastal villages build land where the sea was to stake a legal claim to a future, and yet in doing so, may destroy the very ecosystems which sustain coastal village economies. This paper explores the political economy and geography of these big and small land reclamation projects, arguing for attention to the forms of intertidal and amphibious life which they bury