"Sandscapes in Southeast Asia"
After water, sand is the most widely used resource of the present day. More than 80% of the 40-50 billion tons of sand consumed annually are mixed as concrete and used for construction. But sand as a resource to be excavated in coastal regions is considered exhausted in many countries, and at the same time demand is increasing - there is a shortage of sand. Especially in countries like China, which uses more than 50% of the concrete produced globally, or Singapore, which uses the raw material for land reclamation, sand has emerged as a key import commodity, which - despite locally imposed bans - is imported from almost all countries in Southeast Asia.
The sale of sand holds huge profit margins because, as a common good, it has no owners (Torres et al. 2017). At the same time, sand mining not only leaves behind destroyed landscapes and disastrous ecological consequences, it also provokes social conflicts: with the increasing demand for sand as a resource, the conflict between local residents, conservationists, and those responsible for mining is intensifying. Intersections to debates about the Anthropocene (as well as the Capitalocene or the Chthulucene) become clear, because through the intervention of humans in the rock cycle, which is driven forward under the maxim of 'progress', a capitalist logic of exploitation comes into play. Along some capitalist hubs of value creation and production, sand (from Cambodia, for example) is transformed from natural sediment to commodity and - as in Singapore - back to sediment. The state of research on the topic reveals a dominance of ecological and economic studies, while the social consequences for local residents remain unclear until today.
The research project "Sandscapes in Southeast Asia" will focus on the social, religious and ecological consequences of sand mining. Specifically, the project will address the question of how humans and non-humans reshape their relationships in a landscape massively affected by resource extraction: between nature and culture, between machines, spirits and monsters, and between politics and ecology.