cover of book
 

Building on Borrowed Time: Rising Seas and Failing Infrastructure in Semarang
by Lukas Ley
University of Minnesota Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-1-5179-0887-4 | Paper: 978-1-5179-0888-1
Library of Congress Classification GN406.5.L49 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 304.25

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK

A timely ethnography of how Indonesia’s coastal dwellers inhabit the “chronic present” of a slow-motion natural disaster

Ice caps are melting, seas are rising, and densely populated cities worldwide are threatened by floodwaters, especially in Southeast Asia. Building on Borrowed Time is a timely and powerful ethnography of how people in Semarang, Indonesia, on the north coast of Java, are dealing with this global warming–driven existential challenge. In addition to antiflooding infrastructure breaking down, vast areas of cities like Semarang and Jakarta are rapidly sinking, affecting the very foundations of urban life: toxic water oozes through the floors of houses, bridges are submerged, traffic is interrupted. 

As Lukas Ley shows, the residents of Semarang are constantly engaged in maintaining their homes and streets, trying to live through a slow-motion disaster shaped by the interacting temporalities of infrastructural failure, ecological deterioration, and urban development. He casts this predicament through the temporal lens of a “meantime,” a managerial response that means a constant enduring of the present rather than progress toward a better future—a “chronic present.” 

Building on Borrowed Time takes us to a place where a flood crisis has already arrived—where everyday residents are not waiting for the effects of climate change but are in fact already living with it—and shows that life in coastal Southeast Asia is defined not by the temporality of climate science but by the lived experience of tidal flooding.

Nearby on shelf for Anthropology / Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology / Cultural traits, customs, and institutions: