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The unstable coastline: navigating dispossession and belonging in Colombo

Radicati, Alessandra ORCID: 0000-0002-1335-9376 (2020) The unstable coastline: navigating dispossession and belonging in Colombo. Antipode, 52 (2). 542 - 561. ISSN 0066-4812

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Identification Number: 10.1111/anti.12597


This article explores how residents of a small coastal fishing enclave in Colombo live with cumulative waves of dispossession brought on by exclusionary projects of urban development. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, I introduce the analytic of navigation to describe how people move, plan and live with both present and future threats of dispossession. Navigation offers a unique perspective on questions of agency and resistance in oppressive conditions. Rather than framing subjects as “resisting” projects of world-class city-making, this analysis shows that urban residents instead engage in complex and occasionally contradictory modes of living with uncertainty. I complicate existing understandings of the term “navigation” by describing how questions of nation and belonging are crucial to comprehending how people navigate. Ultimately, I suggest that expressions of belonging and obligation to an imagined community might not only be strategic, but instead reflect some of the broader social forces which structure possibilities for action.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Author
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2019 17:48
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2024 19:42

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