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Between fantasm and locality: architecture, labour and island identities in the Indian Ocean

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 15:10 authored by David BeynonDavid Beynon
Lying in the geographic interstices of the much larger centre-periphery dynamics of Indian Ocean Rim are the five members of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). 1 Located in the southwest part of the Indian Ocean, four of these members are independent nations: Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles, whereas France as the fifth is represented by its overseas départements of Réunion and Mayotte. The four independent members are geopolitically grouped with Africa, all being members of the African Union (AU) and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). As a consequence, architecture in the region has long represented intersections of identity, politics and aesthetics. The history of architectural production in the Indian Ocean is reflective of the broader history of globalised labour movements, colonial patterns of exploitation and the contingent movements and tactical responses of subject peoples. Being positioned within an ocean, these islands have long been either way stations or destinations for long and arduous journeys, particularly since the majority of the founding settlers in Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles were either slaves or indentured servants. In a contemporary sense, this characteristic is not only in relation to the nature of buildings that have recently been designed and constructed in the region, but in the architects and others responsible for them. All the members of the IOC maintain the legacies of historic links between Asia, Europe and Africa, overlaid with contemporary connections to Australia and the more distant Americas. It is the nature of these links, both historically and in relation to their ongoing legacy across the region, that form some underlying questions. This paper will explore these questions with reference to the geopolitical role of architectural production in the region, in a context where local inequalities have more recently been exacerbated by the demands of globalised tourism, and consider the complications of developing local identity in the space between architectural pan-exoticism and lived reality. For example, what does it mean for a place in the global south to have a majority of its architects educated not only in the global north, but in the distant lands of their former colonisers and their descendants?


Publication title

Proceedings of Camea Adelaide Congress 2021






School of Architecture and Design


Adelaide, Australia

Place of publication

The University of Adelaide

Event title

Camea Adelaide Congress 2021

Event Venue

Adelaide, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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Expanding knowledge in built environment and design

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