Waiting for Development

Small Group Project 2023-24

Waiting for Development: Nature, Ruined Emptiness, and Hope in the Danube Delta

Small Group Project 2023-24

All modernization or development projects produce ruins. The socialist modernization was – because of its utopian core and its brutal discontinuation in the 1990s – particularly prone to creating landscapes littered with ruins. These landscapes have become places of ruined but productive emptiness. Nature seems to be the most accepted inhabitant of ruined emptiness. Most of the nature that has become, especially in the 2000s and later, codified as protected nature is, actually, littered with ruins.

In the small post-socialist cities and villages, from where people widely migrated, nature was part of a new promise of development, based on tourism. The industrial and agricultural infrastructure has been left to rot in the 1990s-2000s – and tourism emerged, later, as a new kind of modernity and hope. The intimate connection between ruins, inhabited emptiness, and nature is particularly visible in post-socialist European peripheries such as the Danube Delta – were waves of showcased failed modernizations created ruined landscapes, inside areas successively redefined as wild nature.

We have been doing research in the Danube Delta area for some years now. In the meantime, two large historical ruinous events happened, that we were not able to document: the Covid19 epidemics and the war in Ukraine (the Ukrainian city of Kilia is just over the channel). We want to see how meaningful moral and critical landscapes, but also emptiness, have been created. Chilia – that brings together borderlands, socialist (and older) failed projects, erection of an EU border, tourism, new inequalities, new nature, new animals, new epidemics and war – is a privileged place to understand the mixed politics of ruins and nature.

Empty places are also potential moral landscapes from where critical political discourses are uttered, or even materially felt.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].