Table Topic: “Islands and Beaches: From Utopia to Dystopia?”


When thinking about (tropical) islands and beaches, everyone seems to have a clear idea in mind. On their discussion table, Carsten Wergin and Felix Mallin plan to discuss these notions – Find their table statement here:


For centuries, islands and beaches, particularly those of the tropics, have exerted a unique aesthetic appeal, sparking romanticised fantasies of pristine and self-contained wholeness that modern life was so dearly lacking. Islands and beaches have thus attracted many travellers, explorers but also researchers from various academic disciplines who found in them ideal ‘laboratories’ for the study of all sorts of natural and cultural phenomena. Today, socio-ecological transformations in the Anthropocene cast a dark cloud over related imaginations of boundedness, remoteness and isolation. From rising sea levels and coral bleaching to sand mining and plastic debris, the same islands and beaches are positioned as iconic victims of global environmental decay and destruction. At this table, we will challenge some of the widely-held historic and contemporary assumptions about islands and beaches, starting with two simple questions: What makes an island? What is a beach?


Felix Mallin | Picture: Private.

Felix Mallin is a Political Geographer at the National University of Singapore. He is currently completing his doctoral dissertation on the political economy of climate change in Kiribati. His wider research interests include the geopolitics of ocean-space, marine conservation and deep-sea minerals. Previously, he worked at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Brussels, and as a political advisor to Vanuatu at the United Nations in New York.


Carsten Wergin | Picture: Private.

Carsten Wergin obtained his PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Bremen (Germany) and currently leads the interdisciplinary Research Group “The Transcultural Heritage of Northwest Australia: Dynamics and Resistances” at Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS), and vice-Chair of the German Association for Australian Studies (GASt). His research interests link advancements in the Digital and Environmental Humanities to theories and practices of cosmopolitanism and decolonialisation. This has involved long-term fieldwork on socio-ecological transformations triggered by tourism development, heritage preservation and resource extraction in the Indian Ocean World, particularly the Mascarene Archipelago and Northwest Australia.

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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3 Antworten

  1. 19/10/2018

    […] 4. „Islands and Beaches” […]

  2. 08/12/2018

    […] The fourth discussion table was led by Felix Mallin, a Political Geographer at the National University of Singapore and Carsten Wergin who currently leads the Interdisciplinary Research Group “The Transcultural Heritage of Northwest Australia: Dynamics and Resistances” at Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. They focused their discussion on islands and beaches. They argued that islands and beaches are geopolitical spaces. These are spaces for territorial contestation, or the contestations of natural resources. They further added that islands are spaces of connectivity and acts as a hub for economic activities. […]

  3. 20/12/2018

    […] Wem gehört er? Und wie wird er in Literatur und Kunst dargestellt? Nebenan am Tisch mit dem Thema „Islands and Beaches: From Utopia to Dystopia?“ stellten sich Carsten Wergin (Universität Heidelberg) und Felix Mallin (National University of […]

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