Fluid borders, flexible politics: Where does the land end and the sea begin?
(University of Bremen)
Paper short abstract:
The border between the sea and the land is often marked by dams and dikes; in many cases, these constructions are as much the problem as they are the solution. Once the separation of sea and land is opened up for discussion, options for more flexible climate politics come into view.
Paper long abstract:
Sea level rise is one of the icons of global climate politics in the Anthropocene; apocalyptic scenarios tell that coastal dwellers will turn into climate refugees unless we adapt to climate change. But what does adaptation mean? The border between the sea and the land is often marked by dams and dikes; in many cases, these constructions are as much the problem as they are the solution. Once the separation of sea and land is opened up for discussion, coastal climate politics become more flexible. In my presentation, I will discuss this assumption at the example from the German North Sea coast in a historical perspective. The Jade Bay once was an area where the border between the sea and the land was fluid and under permanent negotiation. Dikes protected reclaimed land and territories, while storm flooding once and again caused huge devastation; only in the late 19th century, the emergence of the German nation state manifested the successful "conquest of nature" (Blackbourn), materialized in the containment of the Jade Bay through a closed ring of dikes. Ever since, the border between the land and the sea seems to be fixed and "natural". Ethnographic research in a historical perspective tells a different and more complex story of the coast. It challenges a dualistic and deterministic world view and opens up perspectives for alternative climate politics.
Into the blue - cultures of the sea