SEAC Seminar Series: Flooding and the Politics of Property Rights in Jakarta

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Online event


Prof. Gavin Shatkin

Prof. Gavin Shatkin

Professor, School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs, School of Architecture, Northeastern University


Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Prof. Hyun Bang Shin

Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, LSE

SEAC hosted a research seminar, chaired by SEAC Director Prof. Hyun Bang Shin on 27th January 2021. Prof. Gavin Shatkin (Professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and the School of Architecture, at Northeastern University) spoke on "Flooding and the Politics of Property Rights in Jakarta".


Talk abstract

Coastal megacities across Asia have experienced devastating floods in recent years, and studies project dramatic increases in populations prone to potential permanent inundation in future decades. This emerging reality of a shift in the relationship between water and urban settlements is driving the recalibration of power relations around a range of issues, including longstanding contestations over infrastructure delivery, housing, land rights and political representation. Flood mitigation efforts have played out in debates over displacement and eviction, and distributional concerns about the costs and benefits of these initiatives. This talk explores the implications of emergent discourses of flood risk for urban politics in Jakarta by examining contestations over the property rights status of kampung settlements that have emerged with a series of evictions of communities due to flood mitigation initiatives.  Based on an analysis of court and policy documents and interviews with key actors, the lecture will argue that the eviction push has highlighted the deeply contested question of the customary property rights claims of kampungs that provide shelter for a majority of Jakarta residents.  This debate pits two contending discourses against each other—one defending the state’s right to unilaterally define the legitimacy of uses of urban space, and to summarily rewrite or abrogate its own laws and regulations in the name of risk mitigation, and another that argues for recognition of historically established claims, and for state accountability to its own laws and regulations.  The lecture will argue that this debate over customary property rights is likely to continue to define urban politics as Jakarta wrestles with the implications of growing flood risk.



A video of this seminar is available to watch at Facebook.


Speaker and chair biographies

  • Prof. Gavin Shatkin is Professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and the School of Architecture, at Northeastern University.  His research focuses on the politics of infrastructure, real estate, housing development, and hazard mitigation in Asia.  His articles have appeared in such journals as Environment and Planning A, Cities, the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Urban Studies, and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.  He is the author of Cities for Profit: The Real Estate Turn in Asia’s Urban Politics (Cornell University Press, 2017). 
  • Prof. Hyun Bang Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies in the Department of Geography and Environment and Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economic dynamics of speculative urbanisation, the politics of redevelopment and displacement, gentrification, housing, the right to the city, and mega-events as urban spectacles, with particular attention to cities in Asian countries such as South Korea, China, Vietnam and Singapore. His recent projects on ‘circulating urbanism and (Asian) capital’ have also brought him to work on Quito, Manila, Iskandar Malaysia, Kuwait City and London. Prof Shin has published widely in major international journals and contributed to numerous books on the above themes. He has coauthored Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), edited Anti-Gentrification: What Is to Be Done (Dongnyok, 2017), and co-edited Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement (Bristol University Press, 2015) and Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He is a board member (trustee) of the Urban Studies Foundation, and sits on the international advisory board of the journal Antipode as well as on the editorial board of the journals International Journal of Urban and Regional Research; Urban Geography; CITY; City, Culture and Society; Space and Environment [in Korea]; China City Planning Review [in China].


Banner image is from Flick by Ruby Mangunsong / World Bank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


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