Abstract

Massive modern port projects across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean in the twenty-first century are where anxieties about the global economy, state sovereignty, and climate change converge. Many of these port projects are agents of a country's geopolitical aspirations. Port constructions engineer rigid boundaries between land and sea, rendering coastlines vulnerable to sea-level rise. Port operations generate effluents from imports like coal and oil that contaminate coastal environments, with devastating consequences for ecologies. They generate debates about the future of the world, where futures of economic growth through technological revolutions in shipping and logistics clash with ecological collapse caused by such mega-infrastructures on already vulnerable coastlines. This interdisciplinary special section, “Port Environments in South Asia,” enters such debates by focusing on ports in South Asia. The South Asian coastline, after all, is today a site of aggressive port development even as scientists project it to be an early victim of the rising sea. “Port environments” allows contributors to move from intimate interactions with local ecologies to the underlying political and legal debates shaping the making and remaking of ports and coasts. As this introduction details, “Port Environments in South Asia” probes the cultural and political desires and discontents entangled in port building and seeks to nurture alternative ways of inhabiting the coastline.

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