Patrick John DeSutter

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Berkeley, U of California

Grant number

Gr. 10293

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

DeSutter, Patrick (Berkeley, U of California) "Islands of Futurity: Engineering Humanitarian and Libertarian Terrestriality"

This project considers futurity and terrestriality through two contemporary artificial island engineering projects. First, Bangladesh has begun to relocate more than one hundred thousand Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, a small silt island thirty miles off the coast. Until recently, Bhasan Char was little more than a sandbar. But a years-long engineering project has apparently solidified the island, and today barracks-like housing awaits continuing arrivals to the camp. Second, the contemporary libertarian “seasteading” movement in California continues attempting to build floating structures for future ocean societies, free from any landed sovereign power. These startup-style societies against the state deny any ontological connection between human societies and landed territory. In fact, they understand land-based political power as stifling to governance “innovation.” I examine the way that climate change and near-inevitable failure function in these plans, what they might tell us about incipient imaginaries of the future, and of social relationships to terrestriality in humanitarian and libertarian discourses. The projects justify themselves by comparison with existing refugee camps and existing political formations, respectively. The comparison here is, then, a lateral comparison-of-comparisons which aims to reveal, against the virtual futures of these projects, current and potential human relationships to the terrestrial.