“Dry Feet For All”: Flood Management and Chronic Time in Semarang, Indonesia
Keywords:Crisis, Flood Prevention, Indonesia, Social Anthropology, Urban Political Ecology
This article describes flood management in poor communities of Semarang, a second-tier city on the north coast of Central Java, Indonesia. Using ethnographic material from participant observation and interviews, the article argues that flood management upholds an ecological status quo – a socioecological system that perpetuates the potential of crisis and structures of vulnerability. While poor residents have developed coping mechanisms, such community efforts follow the logic of maintaining a precarious minimum of safety. Designed in 2009, Dutch-Indonesian anti-flood infrastructure (polder) is supposed to put an end to tidal flooding, locally called rob. As a short-term project, the polder promises to regulate water levels and improve the lives of local residents. While it wants to make flood control transparent and accountable to riverside communities, the project ultimately fails to escape the institutional logic of chronic crisis management. By investigating the temporality and politics of the polder project, this article aims at contributing empirical and theoretical insights to scholarship on socioecological conflicts and crisis.
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