Accepted paper:

Waves, trapped


Stefan Helmreich (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Paper short abstract:

How do coastal infrastructures trap and tame ocean waves that are consequent upon storm surges? This paper explores how wavy action is modeled by coastal engineers, examining what their wave traps assume about the nature of waves as inorganic forms of non-human agency.

Paper long abstract:

Storm surges are trains of larger-than-usual ocean waves that arise during and after hurricanes and that can inundate usually dry terrain. Coastal engineers seek to create infrastructures that can channel these surges away from particular landed people and places, and, in so doing, they hope to capture — to trap and tame — waves. This paper leverages anthropological literature on trapping to explore how wavy action is modeled, managed, and modulated in the making of such ecological infrastructures of capture, and it does so with reference to particular locales in coastal Europe. What do wave traps assume and reinforce (or attenuate) about the nature — successional, accelerative — of waves as inorganic forms of non-human agency?

panel P116
Anthropological traps