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Mapping the Sinking City: Anticipatory Futures, Past Traces and the Imagination of Urban Submergence in Amsterdam, New York and Mexico City

  • 1 September, 2020
  • Open University, Environmental Sciences
  • Brigitte AdriaensenDave Huitema

This research project examines how future ecological risks and challenges to “sinking cities” are imagined and communicated. Due to the accelerated rise of sea levels and global temperatures, several of the world’s major cities are slowly sinking into the sea, while others are sinking because of an increase of groundwater extraction. Adaptation to these problems is highly reliant on the development of future imaginaries: predictive imagery (maps, narratives, scenarios) that visualizes future realities of submergence in order to shape present-day actions and decisions. Current research on such imagined futures, however, tends to conceptualize global climate change as a singular and common problem, thereby overlooking the cultural specificity of these imagined futures across different geopolitical areas. This project examines the particularity of how societies deal with the uncertainties of climate change by exploring how site-specific histories and memories are implicated in the imaginaries of urban futures.
The project analyses future imaginaries in three geopolitical contexts: Amsterdam (Europe), New York (United States) and Mexico City (Latin America). It performs a close-reading grounded in multimodal discourse analysis, site reading and milieu-specific analysis of two forms of cultural production: non-fictional communication and fictional literary texts that imagine an anticipated floods or urban submergence.


Jilt Jorritsma

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