Synne Movik, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Session overview:

Historically, human settlements have had an affinity for the shore, for broad horizons and the expanse of the oceans offering opportunities for travel and trade. Currently, coastal areas are the most densely populated and economically active places on Earth (Sachs, Mellinger et al. 2001, McGranahan, Balk et al. 2007), and they support important and productive ecosystems (Nicholls 2011). But while congregating on the coasts confers benefits, there are increasing threats from a multitude of stressors.  Coastal regions and cities are highly vulnerable to climate change effects such as sea-level rise and frequent extreme events like cyclones and storm surges, and changes in water temperatures near the shore.  Furthermore coastal zones are under mounting  pressure from infrastructure developments, as well as ‘blue economy’ enterprises that disproportionately affect communities dependent on fishing and healthy coastal ecologies to sustain their livelihoods. Examples are the Koli fishers in Mumbai, who are facing pressures from multiple large-scale infrastructure projects that threaten their access to coastal spaces and fishing grounds, and the sea Sami of northern Norway, where aquaculture expansion – at the heart of the Government’s ‘blue economy’ strategy – is constraining their traditional livelihood and fishing practices along the coast.

 These examples bring to light the ‘deterritorialised’ geographies of such struggles (Mahler 2017), and how the dichotomising effect of concepts such as North and South are not helpful in exploring the pressures and mobilisations and organising around access to coastal spaces. In this panel, we seek to draw on scholarship on socio-spatial relations, and in particular the concept of spatial justice, to explore the consequences of coastal transformation and contested coastal spaces in the South and North. Spatial justice is intimately connected with the idea of ‘the right to the city’ that emerged out of work on the production of space in urban contexts.  Drawing on Lefebvre’s thoughts on the production of space (Lefebvre 1991) a body of literature has emerged on the right to the city and spatial justice  (Harvey 2012, Soja 2013, Purcell 2014) and associated work that argues for  ‘rights in places’ (Pierce, Williams et al. 2016). The latter advocates an approach that involves the mapping out of the diverse struggles and negotiations over rights in particular places. We think this is a useful point of departure to exploring spatial justice in coastal spaces, interrogating how coastal places—public, private, sacred and others—and rights of particular users and uses are being transformed, co-produced and negotiated at multiple scales. We thus call for papers that empirically and theoretically explore the negotiations and strategies and struggles over claims to coastal space are unfolding in diverse contexts in the South and North.

Key words:  Coastal zones, transformations, local communities, spatial justice. 

Call for papers:

Contributions that engage with the core concepts of coastal transformations and spatial justice, either empirically or theoretically, are very welcome. Of particular interest are case studies that address spatial justice in coastal spaces comparatively. Please send an abstract (max 250 words) to before 20th January 2022.


Harvey, D. (2012). The right to the city. The Urban Sociology Reader, Routledge: 443-446.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Oxford, Blackwell.

Mahler, A. G. (2017). “Global south.” Global South Studies: 1-4.

McGranahan, G., D. Balk and B. Anderson (2007). “The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low elevation coastal zones.” Environment and urbanization 19(1): 17-37.

Nicholls, R. J. (2011). “Planning for the impacts of sea level rise.” Oceanography 24(2): 144-157.

Pierce, J., O. R. Williams and D. G. Martin (2016). “Rights in places: An analytical extension of the right to the city.” Geoforum 70: 79-88.

Purcell, M. (2014). “Possible worlds: Henri Lefebvre and the right to the city.” Journal of urban affairs 36(1): 141-154.

Sachs, J. D., A. D. Mellinger and J. L. Gallup (2001). “The geography of poverty and wealth.” Scientific American 284(3): 70-75.

Soja, E. W. (2013). Seeking spatial justice, U of Minnesota Press.

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