Cities have been conceived as ideally confined to the fixities of the land, defined against the fluxes of the sea. This panel inquires about the tensions between solidity and fluidity that mark the relationship between land and sea, to speculate on alternative futures for the built environment.
From classical times until today, cities have been conceived in the western imagination as ideally confined to the fixities of the land, a space defined in opposition to the fluxes of the sea. Whereas solid land afforded a durable platform for the establishment of property and citizenship, the fluid sea allowed markets - isolated within the secure boundaries of cities - to be connected across the globe though navigation. Concurrent tensions between solidity and fluidity, permanence and impermanence, substance and change, remain at the core of the western intellectual tradition, often dividing what is natural from what is social in life. Sea level rise poses unprecedented threats to this oppositional relationship, forcing us to reconsider the tension between solidity and fluidity in the design of the built environment. Nearly 10 per cent of all major cities are likely to be impacted by sea level rise in coming decades, compromising the necessary infrastructure on which urban life depends. Yet in reality, urban landscapes have been continually in flux, which becomes dramatically visible to urban dwellers mostly in catastrophic events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, alluvions, sinkholes and, above all, soil liquefaction. This panel invites anthropologists and geographers, as well as scholars and practitioners from other related fields interested in urban life in the Anthropocene, to open up an inquiry into these categorical tensions to speculate on alternative futures for the built environment.
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