Jennifer L. Gaynor

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Jennifer L. Gaynor is an historian and anthropologist of Southeast Asia and its surrounding seas. She writes about how the environment, culture, and political economy interact and undergird social transformations in interconnected Asian maritime and littoral worlds. She has taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, at Cornell University, and at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she is a Research Fellow in the Law School’s Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy. The author of Intertidal History in Island Southeast Asia: Submerged Genealogy and the Legacy of Coastal Capture (Cornell University Press, 2016), her articles have appeared, among other places, in Radical History Review, the Journal of World History and Anthropological Quarterly.

Beyond the Real Estate Turn: The Littoral Truth of Land Reclamation

In cities across Asia and Africa, public-private partnerships have monetized existing land in urban real estate megaprojects (Marcinkoski 2015; Shatkin 2017). Yet, in coastal cities, such projects use land reclamation to create new terra firma on a grand scale. This means that land is no longer simply fixed capital: large scale land reclamation makes manifest the industrial production of land (Gaynor 2020). This industrial production of land relies on new dredging technologies that suck sand from the sea bottom in unprecedented volumes and redirect it to alter coastlines and to fashion new islands in the littoral -- that part of the water close to shore. Although sometimes pitched as an effort to deal with land subsidence and sea-level rise, these land-making projects displace local fishing communities and despoil littoral environments, threatening both fishers’ livelihoods and the food security of urban populations who rely on their catch. In this talk, I focus on Muara Angke’s fishing community in north Jakarta, many of whose 25,000 people were previously resettled to Jakarta Bay’s margins in the 1970’s and refuse to be moved again. Working with local NGO’s and filmmakers, residents documented how, despite the city’s flooding issues, determined local people, along with their allies, occupied and shut down construction of a particular island in Jakarta Bay. 

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Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, School of Law, University at Buffalo, State University of New York