Shifting sands: the rhythms and temporalities of island sandscapes

Prof. Uma Kothari1,2, Dr Alex Arnall3

1University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

3University of Reading, Reading, UK


This paper explores the different timescales and temporalities of the movement of sand. In recent years, growing scholarly attention has focused on the qualities of sand and the increasing demands for its use worldwide. However, the dynamics of this complex substance and the ways in which it flows through entangled human and non-human environments remains largely under-explored. In drawing on recently collected empirical data, this paper explores the speed, pace and cadence of the passage of sand in, around and beyond a small island in the Maldives. It argues for the need to adopt a more substantive comprehension of the choreography of sand as a place-making process that occurs across different, interconnected temporalities, and seeks to explore the emotional and sensory reactions that shifting sand provokes. These temporal dynamics have profound implications for how we understand islands in the context of global environmental change. The paper takes the reader on a walk across the island sandscape to reveal the mutually interlocking roles that human and non-human agents play in transforming its form, thereby creating an ever-changing sense of place.


Professor of Migration and Postcolonbial Studies, University of Manchester, UK and Vice-Chancellor Fellow, School of Geography, University of Melbourne


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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