Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Harvard University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Harvard University
Jakarta, Sinking City: Ecologies of Belonging in a Flood-Prone Metropolis

This research examines how a transnational project of coastal development is mobilizing new claims to urban citizenship in Jakarta, under conditions of increasing environmental uncertainty and risk. Jakarta has long been subject to flooding, but conditions have worsened in recent years as the over-extraction of ground water has caused rapid land subsidence, at rates of up to 25 centimeters per year. A contingent of experts from the Netherlands—the former colonizing power—now proposes a massive hydro-engineering project to save Indonesia's capitol from catastrophic inundation. The resulting NCICD Master Plan calls for the construction of a 32-kilometer seawall in the shape of the Garuda—the eagle-like bird of Hindu-Buddhist mythology, and also Indonesia's national emblem. Sheltered behind the bird's protective wings, private developers plan to construct 17 artificial islands for new luxury real estate. This research tracks the NCICD plan as it hits the ground in Jakarta amidst widespread contestation over the city's socio-ecological future. Through both top-down and bottom-up ethnographic research—among government officials, engineering firms, and real estate developers on the one hand, and fishing communities, informal settlements, and advocacy groups on the other—this project examines the remaking of urban space in Jakarta through the interplay of regimes of technocratic expertise, historically-sedimented practices of land use, and the anxieties and aspirations of a socio-economically diverse citizenry. As a project of ethnographic political ecology within a postcolonial megacity, the research seeks to recover links between processes of urbanization, dynamics of socio-natural entanglement, and the enduring effects of relations of colonial rule.