Dunescape Urbanism, Or, the Stockpiles of Sand Geopolitics

Singapore is a nation built on supply chains. While many of the flows of capital and investment enriching the state are invisible, the supply of construction materials into the city-state is made manifest in the steady expansion of its skyline, the flotilla of cargo ships at anchor in the Singapore Strait, and the expanding contours of the island nation’s coastline. The growth of Singapore’s territory depends upon what is perhaps the city’s most vital supply chain: the steady stream of sand from Southeast Asian hinterlands to construction sites as concrete, and to land reclamation zones as fill. The logistics of sand delivery, whether mined from river deltas in Cambodia or dredged from the Malaysian seafloor, are the supply chain which enables all other Singaporean supply chains. In expanding its boundaries, Singapore can house its population and create space for the city’s industrial infrastructure; commodities processed in these new borderlands, in turn, facilitate the city’s famously high standard of living.

Published in Thresholds 49 “Supply”, Spring 2021

Presented at the Thresholds 49 “Supply” Launch Event

Research for this article was supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts