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Between “Blue Urbanism” and Tanah Air


Between “Blue Urbanism” and Tanah Air

Call for Conference Abstracts (online & onsite presentations)

This international transdisciplinary conference invites urban coastal researchers, educators, practitioners, activists, policymakers, artists, and entrepreneurs among others, who work at the interstices of urban spaces and the ocean.

Coastal cities around the world are among the fastest growing urban spaces. While a greater proportion of the world´s megacities are situated along seacoasts, they remain doubly precarious to both the effects of slow-creep sea level change, and localised socio-environmental dynamics such as land subsidence and liquefaction that remain intrinsically political.

Global coastal cities are also sites of markedly visible forms of social inequality and inequity, as urban shorelines continue to be overbuilt, privatised and gentrified, while continuously fragmenting spaces of unplanned urbanization and pushing the urban littoral poor further hinterland.

The connected diverse forms of coastal geo-engineering and placemaking weave together antithetical imaginaries of urban coastal futurities– some that embrace protective living away from water through the armouring of land-sea interfaces (through dykes and seawalls for example), while other rationalities embrace more amphibious forms of infrastructural production along seashores and over water.

Taken together, these relational epistemologies bring to the fore a new kind of urbanism – one in which the city and sea are techno-scientifically and politically integrated, often within marked-led logics of late capitalism. They often re-configure not only spatio-technical fabrics of the cities, but also re-shape nature-cultures and co-habitation with more-than-human life.

This transdisciplinary conference sets out to explore these differentiated, polarising dynamics inherent in coastal cities, many of which have turned towards “blue urban solutionism” – whether in terms of deriving socio-economic value from the sea (e.g., via the Blue Economy), or more radically in terms of re-envisioning shored, urban life in highly protected terrestrial spaces or out at sea. Some of these approaches remain managerial and technocratic, while others may seek to challenge current exploitative and extractive models of socio-ecological transition in their wake.

While cities turn to the sea, we also place as much emphasis on the un/rethinking of urbanizing/urbanized islands and urban centres in archipelagic contexts (or ´archipelagicities´). What sensibilities of amphibious and protective living with/away from water are foregrounded in these urban experiments? How do contemporary and evolving urban infrastructures, from the material and symbolic to the digital, reproduce and contest historic and new dynamics of urban coastal change?

In contemplating these antithetical realities, we draw inspiration from the Indonesian vernacular “Tanah Air” as but one historically embedded notion, a political concept and as metaphor with which to challenge, transgress and reimagine urban coastal futures.

This conference therefore also serves as an open invitation to explore and play with similar transculatural notions of inhabiting land and water at the same time, particularly across the vast heterogeneity of urban space and their practices at placemaking.

Crosscutting currents may include but are not limited to:

– Pluralising Island Cities / Archipelacities (Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, Maldives and east India, the Pacific Islands)

– Unfixing the city / the urban amphibious

– Understanding the power of hegemonic placemaking and engineering practices

– Challenging paradigm shifts in technological and social praxis.

Subsequent breakout sessions/ thematic parts include:

i. Unlearning – troubling past and contemporary meanings, sensibilities and practices in urban coastal space;

ii. Dreaming – envisioning change and dreaming ´back better´, futurities, and urban dreamscapes

iii. Remaking – Challenges in coastal placemaking and the politics of sea level ´´solutionism´, forms of co-production and planning “from below.”

We welcome presentation abstracts (approx. 150 words) in diverse multimodal formats by July 10,2023. Submissions should be emailed to the conference co-ordinator Muthmainnhah –

Accepted submissions will be notified by July 15, 2023. No registration fees are required.

Dr. Johannes Herbeck (University of Bremen), Dr. Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa (Leibniz-ZMT), and Dr. Arthor Subroto (Universitas Indonesia)