Jilt Jorritsma | Mapping the Sinking City: Anticipatory Futures, Past Traces and the Imagination of Urban Submergence in Amsterdam, New York and Mexico City

Jilt Jorritsma | Open Universiteit, NL | Supervisor: Brigitte Adriaensen & Dave Huitema  | 2020-2024

Due to the accelerated rise of sea levels and global temperatures, several of the world’s major cities are slowly sinking into the sea, while others are sinking because of an increase of groundwater evaporation. Adaptation to these problems is highly reliant on the development of future imaginaries: predictive imagery (maps, narratives, scenarios) that visualizes future realities of submergence in order to shape present-day actions and decisions. Current research on such imagined futures, however, tends to conceptualize global climate change as a singular and common problem, thereby overlooking the cultural specificity of these imagined futures across different geopolitical areas. My research project examines the particularity of how societies relate to the uncertainties of climate change by exploring how site-specific histories and memories are implicated in the imaginaries of urban futures.

The project analyses and compares future imaginaries in three geopolitical contexts: Amsterdam (Europe), New York (United States) and Mexico City (Latin America). It performs a close-reading grounded in multimodal discourse analysis and spatially narratology of two forms of cultural production: (non-fictional) policy documents and (fictional) literary texts that imagine, visualize and communicate an anticipated urban submergence. Within these texts, the various narrative and discursive techniques through which particular, site-specific historical circumstances get reproduced will be examined and, by doing so, this project aims to reveal the cultural underpinnings of the imagination and perception of the future in different geopolitical areas.