Ungirt by sea: Crisis Geographies, Island Futures

As a political and imaginative figure, the island projects wholeness in Western epistemologies. An island is a world apart. Against temporal asymmetries and anxieties (who came when? who was here before?) the island is a sign of spatial completeness and collectivity. The self-enclosed world of the island implies affective and imaginative bonds among inhabitants held together within naturally given limits. Amid flux and fracture, the island signifies as an unbroken, bounded, self-sufficient, even organic, entity: a nation.

This discussion considers three island-states – the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Australia – as artefacts of colonial history that are now cast into states of ontological, political and environmental crisis. These are understood as an undoing or dissolution of their core identities. In mapping these new crisis geographies of islands, the paper marks the racial and economic asymmetries by which they are characterised, even as it also seeks to trace the contingent and fleeting interconnections between them.