“Dry Feet For All”: Flood Management and Chronic Time in Semarang, Indonesia


  • Lukas Ley University of Toronto




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.

Author Biography

Lukas Ley, University of Toronto

Lukas Ley is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada. His research analyzes the socio-ecological effects of tidal flooding in Semarang, Indonesia. He is particularly interested in a spatiotemporal optics of climate change that is grounded in the lived experiences of downstream dwellers. Lukas Ley is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the independent anthropological Journal of Urban Life (www.julonline.com).




How to Cite

Ley, L. (2016). “Dry Feet For All”: Flood Management and Chronic Time in Semarang, Indonesia. Advances in Southeast Asian Studies (ASEAS, Formerly Known As Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies), 9(1), 107–126. https://doi.org/10.14764/10.ASEAS-2016.1-7



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