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Monsoon [+ other] Grounds Panel 3: [inter]ground matters

Speakers: Owain Jones, Jonathan Cane Chair: Kirsten Hastrup Owain Jones, Bath Spa University Monsoon + Tide Monsoons are cyclical rhythms of the atmosphere, which bring a series of atmospheric variations to locations. Being highly complex, vivid and volatile phenomena of air, precipitation and pressure, within their overall cyclicity, there is huge variation and uncertainty. Monsoons make, and meet, all kind of social rhythms. These are complex enough scenarios in themselves, and become even more so with the uncertainties of climate change. Here I begin to look at where monsoon cycles meet other profound geophysical cyclical forces - that of the tides – which also operate in multi-cycles of rhythms and regional and local variations. Where monsoons meet tides, complexity compounds complexity, uncertainty, risk and drama are amplified. Rhythm overlays rhythm. Flooding is one key and obvious interaction. The Hindustan Times publishes a list of Monsoon high tide times, warning that, “in 2017, eight people died in the deluge that followed a downpour during a high tide. The corporation has appealed the people to stay indoors in case a downpour coincides with one of the high tide dates.” In the Hungry Tide, Amitav Ghost builds a narrative of the precarious lives lived in the ‘immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans.’ ‘What [ ] were the physiological mechanisms that attuned the animals to the flow of the tides? It could not be their circadian rhythms since the timing of the tides changed from day to day. What happened in the monsoon, when the flow of fresh water increased and the balance of salinity changed? Was the daily cycle of migration inscribed upon the palimpsest of a longer seasonal rhythm?’ Tides are complex and vary according to many spatio-temporal local factors, but their expected levels are predictable enough for highly accurate tide tables to published all around the world. Amazing mechanical tide prediction machines were constructed, which predicted tides for individual ports in the British Empire, each varying factor having its own cog. It is difficult to imagine such a machine for the Monsoon as they operate to differing factors of complexity. Jonathan Cane, University of the Witwatersrand Permeability, Ocean, Concrete This proposed paper extends my current research on concrete and the notion of permeability. Taking up a new postdoctoral fellowship in oceanic humanities I am interested in asking how a queer-ecological and postcolonial approach to building materials and construction methods might suggest ways of thinking differently about the ocean. For this presentation, I propose examining the ‘dolos’ or ‘tetrapod’ which since the 1950s has become an international standard form of breakwater. Made of (generally unreinforced) concrete, these interlocking components are part of a ‘hard coastal stabilisation’ and work by attenuating the force of waves. The energy dissipating blocks are conceptually understood to be ‘armour’, working ’against’ water, to ‘protect’ coastlines. Apart from the brutal beauty of tetrapod structures, they are generative for shifting thinking towards assemblages, processes and interconnection rather than binary terms. How might we think of waves as not ‘against’ land? What could the tetrapod and its relation to the tide open up in our consideration of the monsoon?


Tags:Monsoon Grounds,Monsoon Assemblages,Symposium,University of Westminster,ERC Research

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