Edward Garret Dostaler
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalifornia, Berkeley, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10108
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleDostaler, Edward (California, Berkeley, U. of) "City of Sand: Urban Ecologies and Uncertain Life in Chennai"
In Chennai, and elsewhere, sand is a constitutive element of modern urban life. Through its many material arrangements and circulations, sand mediates lifeworlds and landscapes. For example, in Chennai, sand mined or dredged from riverbanks, beaches, and the Bay of Bengal flows into the city, where it supplies the “raw” material required for urbanization. Much of this sand becomes concrete, which forms the material infrastructure of the city, mediated by the bodies of laborers as well as complex legal, political, and economic systems. Aggregate forms of sand—beaches and coastline—are among the only public spaces in the city, and thus serve as a primary site for political action and struggle over the commons. Far from static physical forms, the sandy beaches and coastline in Chennai are dynamic, shifting, anthropogenic formations that fashion, and are fashioned by, technocratic practices of earth management and geo-engineering. In thinking with these various arrangements and circulations of sand in Chennai, this project asks: (1) How does sand mediate the interrelations between and constitution of: (a) Anthropos (Human Life) and Geos (Nonlife), and (b) existential, ecological, and economic uncertainty; and (2) How might tracing sand across Chennai inform more-than-human theories of mediation and relationality?