Sulawesi (AnoniW, pixabay)

Mobilities and socio-environmental frictions in hazard prone locations at Indonesian frontiers

PhD Project: Daniela Paredes Grijalva (IfGR, University of Vienna)

Duration: 2022-2024

Funding: DOC-ÖAW Fellowship


This project will investigate how mobilities take shape in conjunction with environmental change following the earthquake of September 2018 in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia and its aftermath.

Disasters are anything but “natural”; instead, they emerge from the historical relations and processes among humans and environments. This project is not the story of a disaster, but rather the earthquake and its aftermath will serve as a focusing event to explore the complex interrelations of life and landscapes in the region across time. It will investigate plural framings (cultural, religious, technocratic, environmental, etc.) of these events by inquiring about mobilities of people, things and ideas in relation to the environment. For instance, the settlement patterns in the region actually moved away from the coast and the Palu-Koro fault region, while colonial power dictated precisely that these areas were to be worked and populated. Mangroves protect shorelines from waves and erosions. As they disappear, the project asks what kind of relations to this ecosystem can be found.

The research will look at who moves and who stays after a disaster. How does the influx of goods and capital during the humanitarian response affect power asymmetries and gender dynamics? Where do particular ideas of risk come from and what local trajectories do they take on?

Socio-environmental frictions are the contact zones where, for instance, people interact with a body of water in a new way or where state authorities regulate what species of trees to protect. In this sense, the project will continue the work of social scientists proposing ways to analytically go beyond the culture-nature divide. A central aim of this project is to generate an anthropological account of a growing public discussion linking climate change, environmental degradation, disasters and human mobility.