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Dr. Lukas Ley

Profilbild Ley2

I’m a social anthropologist whose research focuses on water, coastalinfrastructure, and urban temporality. In urban Java, where I conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork, I studied the phenomenon of tidal flooding (“rob”) to understand the production of environmental crisis. My first book "Building on Borrowed Time" will be published by University of Minnesota Press in fall 2021. My new research project focuses on the role of sand in urban transformation and human responses to climate change. In an ongoing side project, I have been describing how artists living in the Javanese city Semarang narrate kampung life and aspirations of the poor to the public and become new mediators between residents and the local government.

As member of the DFG network “Infrastructure and the remaking of Asia
through adapting, orchestrating and cooperating”, I’m currently working
on a book project with Arne Harms. The book assembles ethnographic
studies of contemporary instantiations of coastal protection and thinks
with the shore to better understand human ways of inhabiting frontiers,
borderlands and edges in the era of climate change. As co-founder of the
EASA Urban Anthropology Network, I'm co-editor of a new book series on
urban ethnography published with Berghahn Books.

In the winter term (WS 20/21), I teach two courses. Teaching will be
affected by the recent measures taken by the university to prevent
further spreading of COVID-19 and mainly take place online. The
Institute of Anthropology has implemented online teaching tools and
suitable teaching formats to make “social distancing” possible at an
institutional level.
Please note that the seminar “Anthropology of Sand” is meant for MA
students only. Exceptions are rare.

BA – Pandemische Infrastrukturen (10ETH170202)
MA – Anthropology of Sand (10ETH623202)

For more information on these courses, click on the link
“Lehrveranstaltungen” (right bar).

If you’re interested in taking one of these courses, please register
timely via LSF. Emailing me to express your interest and enquire about
the course is welcome, but won’t replace an official registration.


If you’re looking for a BA thesis supervisor, please send me a project outline (max. 2 pages) via email. I will try to get back to you as quickly as possible. I supervise BA and MA theses that touch on the following topics and fields:
    Urban Anthropology
    Climate Change
    Urban Marginalization
    Water and Hydrosociality
    Anthropology of Development
    Political Ecology



Recent Publications


Building on Borrowed Time: Rising Waters and Infrastructural Breakdown in the Delta of Semarang. University of Minnesota Press.


Lukas Ley. (2018). Discipline and Drain: River Normalization and Semarang's Fight against Tidal Flooding. Indonesia, (105), 53-75.

Ley, L., & Krause, F. (2019). Ethnographic conversations with Wittfogel’s ghost: An introduction. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 37(7), 1151–1160.

"On the margins of the hydrosocial: Quasi-events along a stagnant river," Geoforum, (for special issue by Luisa Cortesi and Alejandro Camargo).

Jacobs, Jane.” The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory, Bryan S. Turner (ed.), Blackwell Pub.

“Dry feet for all”: Flood management and chronic time in Semarang, Indonesia. ASEAS –
Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies
, 9(1), 107-126.

“Science knows the future while magic just guesses? Why we need to believe in order to know.” 360˚, 15, 102-108.  



"Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai"
(Nikhil Anand), City & Society.

"Owners of the Sidewalk" (D. M. Goldstein), Anthropos, April/Mai 2018 Ausgabe.



"The Years of Living Precariously - The 'Rob' Phenomenon in Semarang", Voices, Special Issue: Social Water.

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Latest Revision: 2021-02-16
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