The Newsletter 92 Summer 2022

Reimagining the Littoral through Development Regimes and Local Contingencies

Vidhya RaveendranathanEdyta Roszko

This collection unpacks the multiple trajectories of coastal transformations in the past and the present, with a focus on the different claims made by state and non-state actors to naturalize the coast as a space of flows for greater connectivity, economic growth, and future prosperity. 

It looks at the varied local responses to the different development imaginaries employed by colonial and postcolonial India and contemporary China as they embark on large-scale coastal redevelopment and infrastructural projects. By doing so, the contributions seek to nuance existing narratives of displacement and dispossession; to interrogate the multiple meanings of coastal transformations for public and private stakeholders, technocrats, and coastal communities; and to foreground the diverse, uneven, and contradictory nature of these phenomena. Far from producing homogeneity with modernizing effects, our case studies collectively show that centrally-funded, large-scale infrastructural projects have to be situated within their glocalized contexts and authoritative knowledge regimes about modernity, development, or heritage building. In this way, we shed light on how different groups of social actors and networks – Hindu nationalists, Chinese fishers, African fishers and traders, Kutch coastal dwellers, and South Indian artisanal and mechanized fishers – appropriate, contest, and co-produce imaginaries of development and, in the process, make the coastal space legible for themselves.


Vidhya Raveendranathan is a Doctoral Candidate at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Georg-August-Göttingen University. As part of the archives projects of the Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai, she is currently collaborating with researchers based at the French Institute of Pondicherry in building a 'Coastal Lives' digital archive.

Edyta Roszko is Senior Researcher and social anthropologist at the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway, where she is leading the ERC Starting Grant project TransOcean. She is the author of Fishers, Monks and Cadres: Navigating State, Religion and the South China Sea in Central Vietnam (NIAS/University of Hawai’i Press).