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Coasts are highly dynamic environments. Their constant mutability is what defines them best. Coasts, however, are disappearing, shrinking, vanishing, worldwide. The lack of sand, shoreline erosion, reclamation and sea-level rise put at risk the coasts as we know them. Many natural factors interplay to explain the situation, but the full understanding can only be achieved by looking at human history. In this roundtable, four scholars, with different backgrounds present and discuss, based on their research: what is a “vanishing” coast; how societies have been coping with this over time; and what can past legacies teach us for the future. By establishing coastal connections this seminar session takes us from East Africa to the Pacific Islands, East Asia, Northern Europe and the Arctic, from ancestral sites to colonial settlements, physical and literary places, indigenous narratives and poetry and, slippery tidal flats, a dive in history with an eye in the future.

Young Rae Choi is a human-environmental geographer interested in marine and coastal governance in East Asia. She has been working in modern history of coastal land reclamation and recently published “Slippery ontologies of tidal flats”, in Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space (2020).

Katie Ritson is a scholar of Comparative Literature with a particular interest in Northern Europe. She is the author of The Shiftings Sands of the North Sea Lowlands: Literary and Historical Imaginaries (2018), about low-lying coasts, their fluidity and vulnerability.

Mike O´Rourke is an anthropological archaeologist working on tangible and intangible heritage and the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. He has written an interesting article for NICHE, the Network of Canadian Environmental History about the loss of significant coastal landscapes of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

Hsinya Huang is Professor of America and Comparative Literature, author and editor of books on Indigenous Literatures. She is currently working in the Anthropocene in trans-Pacific Indigenous and Arctic writing.

Joana Gaspar de Freitas is an environmental historian, principal investigator of the European Research Council funded project DUNES. Sea, Sand and People (2018-2023).


All welcome, this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.