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Author:Samuli Lähteenaho (University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
At the public beach in Beirut sand is an ever present material fact. In this paper I examine how the materiality of sand becomes intermingled with other material and social presences. Sand becomes an affective matter, and thus has an effect on the relative location of the beach within the city.
Paper long abstract:
At the public beach in Beirut, Lebanon, sand is an ever present total material fact. Storied to have arrived from Sahara through sea currents, sand at the beach grounds all engagement, leisure, and grief to be experienced. Named the White Sands, they were once part of a wider stretch of sandy ground on the flank of the expanding city. What remains of the sands have grown to take a central place in urban politics as the 'last public beach' of Beirut, and appropriated for the neoliberal urbanism of the tourist industry and stolen for construction. In this paper I examine how the materiality of sand becomes intermingled with other materials and social presences. Sand becomes an affective matter, and thus in turn has an effect on the relative location of the beach within the city.
In my discussion I foreground the sands of the beach. Through intermingling with micro-plastics, sewage and other forms of waste the sands become dirty, drastically changing their class status and relationship with rest of the city. Through mixing with medical waste and broken glass, the sands can become dangerous, a risk environmentalists caring for the beach strive to avert. I propose that the sands require labor of care to make them pleasing and pure, but that this work is constant and precarious and mixed with environmental contradiction as ecosystems remain nested in the mix of sand and plastic. With care, the sands can become pleasing to touch and live with, even therapeutic.
Toward an elemental anthropology: working through sand I