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Vortrag, Vortragsreihe

(Un)Knowing Urban Waters: Reconfiguring Drainage Infrastructure in Semarang, Indonesia

Vortrag von Lukas Ley (Max-Planck-Institut for ethnologische Forschung)

In Semarang, the capital of Central Java, Indonesia, urban rivers regularly overflow and flood low-lying coastal neighbourhoods. The constant risk of flooding and actual events of rob, which is how residents call tidal inundations, shape the rhythms of everyday life as residents attune themselves to hydraulic infrastructure supposed to regulate water pressure, depth, and flow. Since the 1990s, they increasingly often had to figure out where the water will go (Kusno 2018), as houses sink, riverbanks collapse, and streets turn into rivers. The talk asks how residents come to know water and its infrastructure in times of urban liquefaction (Ingold and Simonetti 2021). To that end, it describes residential mechanisms of coping with floods and dealing with an unstable environment and erratic state since colonial times. The paper further touches on furtive political organizing around non-governmental initiatives, such as pumping communities and environmental advocacy, which rather try to unknow urban waters to coax riverine communities into caring for urban drains. The city-wide introduction of polder systems, which dam rivers to prevent seawater intrusion, not just radically reengineered water flow but also undermined emerging relations with urban waters. Today, a new type of algae (water hyacinth) proliferates in Semarang’s dammed rivers, suffocating waterways and local ambitions of having cleaner rivers.

Lukas Ley is an environmental anthropologist working at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, where he is leading the DFG-funded research group “Sand – The Future of Coastal Cities in the Indian Ocean.” His research is broadly concerned with marginalization, temporality, and the material environment within urban landscapes.

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Diese Veranstaltung gehört zur Vortragsreihe
ZMO-Kolloquium im Wintersemester 2022/2023
Environmental (Un)Knowing: Exploring the nexus of epistemic and environmental injustice