Böcker | 2014

The Hambantota Connection – Constructing Landscapes, Contesting Modernity

Kerstin Hamilton, Jonas Lindberg & Karl Palmås

»In order to access the port, we visit Ms P at the Urban Development Authority. She shows us maps of the Hambantota district. On the maps, there are a lot of small dots representing activity. Patterns are visible, but only from afar.«

As China re-emerges as a superpower and Western hegemony wanes, the Indian Ocean has become a geopolitical nexus. In the centre of this new map lies Hambantota, a fishing village on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Here, Chinese capital and labour has been ploughed into the construction of an international airport, a cricket ­stadium, and what is expected to become the largest port in South Asia. ­Hamban­tota seems to fit perfectly into what American and Indian military ­strategists refer to as the »String of Pearls«: a plot of vital infra­structure ­developments, scattered along the rim of the Indian Ocean. The West no longer represents the only model of development, and there are now alternative versions of modernity that compete with each other. Hambantota can be understood as a microcosm that contains this contested modernity.

Drawing upon documentary photography, development ­geography and economic anthropology, the authors trace connections ­between ­local phenomena and global patterns. The Hambantota ­Connection presents a visual sociology of logistics and livelihoods, of ­authoritarian leadership and anthropocenic landscapes, and of ­economic ­fictions and planetary fluxes. It explores what a place can say about the world, and how the world can be grasped through abstraction and ­speculation.

Kerstin Hamilton holds a BA in photo­graphy from Dublin Institute of Technology, and an MFA from the School of Photography at the University of Gothenburg.

Jonas Lindberg has been following the developments in Hambantota since conducting his doctoral re-search in development geography. He is currently Associate Professor at the University of Gothenburg.

Karl Palmås completed his PhD in sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is currently Associate Professor at Chalmers University of Technology.

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The Hamban… | Recensionsklipp

Intervju med Karl Palmås om The Hambantota Connection i Ny Tid