shifting_sands_fieldwork (2017-2019)
ESRC-funded
 

SAND is a largely invisible component at the core our shared contemporary.

 

Indeed, today sand is unearthed at unprecedented rates:

It is extracted from riverbeds,

stolen from beaches

and unearthed beneath agricultural lands across the planet.

Mixed with gravels, cement and water, sand becomes the concrete foundation of the infrastructure we rely on to do almost anything.

Indeed, beyond concrete, sand is also used to construct computer chips, fashion glass and build extensions to earth's land mass itself. 

The social and ecological costs of this extraction are huge and are slowly coming to global visibility.

 

In 2019, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released their first ever extensive report on the ubiquitous material.

Yet conversations remain dominated by narratives of grand extraction processes and largely limited to the histories of the West and present day developments in India and China.

 

In response to this regional and scalar bias, the 'shifting sands' fieldwork sought to capture the labours, lives and livelihoods surrounding the extraction of sand in Ghana's capital city of Accra - a growing city in an expanding metropolitan region of West Africa.

Over the course of a year, I moved with a sand extraction company across the farmland of Accra's margins: the spaces from which sand is first unearthed.

From the edges of the metropolois, the grains are transported to nearby block factories, where they are transformed into the concrete foundations of the city yet to come.

As I moved with the company, I captured elements of labour and life in the extraction 'pits', thus supplementing the grand narratives of global extraction with images and narratives of a more intimate engagement with this earthly material.

  

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Outputs:

i.     Geologising urban political ecology (UPE): The urbanisation of sand in Accra, Ghana

       [Antipode, 2021]

ii.    Shifting Sands in Accra, Ghana: The Ante-lives of urban form

       [Doctoral thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2020]

iii.   Urbanisation in Accra and cities of sand 

       [Africa @ LSE, 2020]

iv.    Anxious Edges: Sand, security and sustainability at Accra's urban limits

       [Presentation at Royal Geographical Society, Forthcoming]

v.     Temporary horizons: shifting sands in Accra, Ghana

       [Presentation at the Conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, Forthcoming]

vi.    Shifting Sands: Anxious Landscapes in Urban Worlds

       [Photography exhibition @ Hoxton Basement, London 2019]

vii.   The shifting sandpit in the peripheries of Greater Accra.   

       [Presentation at Royal Geographical Society, London 2019]

viii.  Shifting Sands in Accra, Ghana: The sandy ante-lives of urban form'

       [Presentation at Royal Geographical Society, Cardiff 2018]