“Translating Sea Level Change in Urban Life” – A mid-term symposium organized by the EMERSA consortium

Johannes Herbeck (artec, Universität Bremen) & Rapti Siriwardane (Leibniz-ZMT)

The EMERSA project (led by Prof. Dr. A-K Hornidge and Prof. Dr. M. Flitner), and their core partners at Universitas Indonesia (UI) organized a mid-term symposium at the UI campus in Salemba, Jakarta between the 4th and 6th of September, 2018. The event brought together researchers from the social sciences, the humanities, the physical sciences and area studies working across a diverse range of themes relating to the lived and experiential aspects of (relative) sea-level change in Southeast Asia.

The event kicked off with a public photographic exhibition at the Ke:Kini Gallery in Menteng (central Jakarta), featuring 15 photographic frames contributed by symposium participants featuring various aspects of their field work - from artificial islands in Singapore, sea walls in Jakarta, to balagay vessel expeditions in the South China Sea. The event served as an excellent opportunity to spark conversations on the diversity of field experiences and research approaches, both between the participants as well as with a wider, interested public. The exhibition ran for three consecutive evenings.

The following two workshop days were opened up by a keynote lecture delivered by Assistant Professor Dr. Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, NUS-Yale College, Singapore, entitled: "Feeling Sea Level Rise: Narrative, Perception, Action". The workshop saw engaged and intense discussions on the various papers that had been sent in prior to the event and were presented at the event. The sequence was divided into four thematic blocks with 3-4 presentations that covered a wide range of topics featuring case-studies from Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, and New Caledonia. The core themes focused on including everyday urban justice and livelihood contestations in coastal cities as a result of policy interventions such as in/voluntary relocation, everyday practices of living with floods and land subsidence, including imaginaries of 'futuring' urban coastscapes through practices such as amphibious lifestyles featuring floating homes and utopic-libertarian visions such as seasteading.

The EMERSA team and their partners are presently working on a co-edited volume (for Brill´s Asian Studies series) that will bring together much of the original material that was discussed at the workshop.

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For photos and videos from the diverse SPP-1889 SeaLevel fieldwork!