marie curie

Contested Port Cities: a global geography of community conflicts

Many contemporary ports are threatening the very communities that previously nurtured them. This research proposal tackles the emerging phenomenon of socio-spatial conflicts arising in port cities, and argues for a new critical approach that centres the experiences and responses of those contesting the making of global ports.

Over 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea, with forecasts for further growth. The expansion of increasingly privatised and corporatised port infrastructure is creating a clash of interests between multi-scalar markets and globalised value chains on the one hand, and inhabitants of the port hinterland on the other. The making of global ports is thus transformed into an urgent societal issue, which demands a social scientific approach that acknowledges the interconnected nature of localised conflicts.

Ports are not just global trade hubs, but are indispensable cogs in the complex and sometimes “predatory” machinery of the global supply chain. Increasing demand for space and water as well as greater air, soil, sonic and water pollution are only some of the reasons for the social contestations that manifest. This holds new theoretical and practical implications for social sciences, fundamental for conceiving resilient and inclusive futures for port cities away from economic disciplinary perspectives.

By focusing on the new socio-spatial tensions in the inhabited fringes surrounding harbours, I expect to reveal logistics-driven mechanisms of rupture that impact people and places in the making of global ports. I will analyse two specific paradigmatic cases – Piraeus and Valencia – using ethnographic methods to understand the specific local contexts impacted by this globalised infrastructure. This project also entails the development of an online platform that maps and documents cases of contestation at the port, enabling the establishment of a “connective geography” that opens new channels of communication between port communities.

Funders: European Commission – Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA-IF-EF-ST)
Grant Amount: 175,572.48€
Role TU Delft: Postdoctoral Researcher
Project Duration: 24 months
TU Delft Researchers: Francesca Savoldi