contested ports

Contested Port Cities: a global geography of community conflicts

Many contemporary ports are threatening the very communities that previously nurtured them. This research aims to 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, and the way communities reclaim the right to their territory, this research project expects to reveal logistics-driven mechanisms of rupture that impact people and places in the making of global ports. It analyses two specific paradigmatic cases – Piraeus and Valencia – using ethnographic methods to understand the specific local contexts impacted by this globalised infrastructure.

One of the outputs of this project is the site – a collaborative, non-exhaustive platform that documents cases of contestation at the port, highlighting community resistance strategies. Its content is co-produced by citizens, activists, and scholars. It is also a hub of resources that deepen critical engagement with the unsustainable effects of maritime logistics, sharing articles, books, documentaries, and reports.

european commission
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101026967.


European Commission – Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA-IF-EF-ST)

Grant Amount: 

Role TU Delft: 
Postdoctoral Researcher

Project Duration: 
24 months

TU Delft Researchers: 
Francesca Savoldi