The Hambantota Connection: Constructing landscapes, contesting modernity
As China re-emerges as a superpower and Western hegemony wanes, the Indian Ocean has become a geopolitical nexus. In the centre of this new map lies Hambantota, a fishing village on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Here, Chinese capital and labour has been ploughed into the construction of an international airport, a cricket stadium, and what is expected to become the largest port in South Asia. Hambantota seems to fit perfectly into what American and Indian military strategists refer to as the "String of Pearls": a plot of vital infrastructure developments, scattered along the rim of the Indian Ocean. The West no longer represents the only model of development, and there are now alternative versions of modernity that compete with each other. Hambantota can be understood as a microcosm that contains this contested modernity.
Drawing upon documentary photography, development geography and economic anthropology, the authors trace connections between local phenomena and global patterns. The Hambantota Connection presents a visual sociology of logistics and livelihoods, of authoritarian leadership and anthropocenic landscapes, and of economic fictions and planetary fluxes. It explores what a place can say about the world, and how the world can be grasped through abstraction and speculation.