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 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 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.