Instituting Worlds: Architecture and Islands

The past decade has seen a surge in scholarship in all things island. From offshore financial centres to immigrant detention camps, tourist havens to military bases, islands keep capturing the interest of scholars across disciplines, echoing a much longer history of fascination with these geographical formations and their attendant cultures. This interest is made more urgent by the emergencies island nations face in the context of global climate change and, in some cases, their potential obliteration. Straddling the border between catastrophe and utopia, islands hold a central place in re-imagining a better world.

Given that islands are defined by their natural spatial characteristics, it is hardly surprising that the discipline of geography has been predominant in defining the field of inquiry. The specificity of islands in terms of constructed space, however, comes across as relatively unexamined. With this call, editors aim to address that absence by turning to the spatial materialities of islands and their multifarious implications. Whether addressed in terms of social organisation, as a mechanism of power or a cultural expression, editors believe that architectural thinking has a lot to contribute to the exciting new field of island studies. Therefore, editors invite scholars, designers, artists, planners, historians and writers with an engagement in architecture – from different backgrounds and vantage points – to consider islands in the context of today’s globalised yet increasingly divided world. By placing the emphasis on the conjuncture of building and islands editors wish to explore how specific, circumscribed, and localized assemblages can generate new insights of the precarious conditions societies are facing everywhere.

Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s seminal essay from 1952, “Desert Islands”, editors are particularly inspired by the notion that islands constitute the “second origin of the world” through which society re-institutes itself. Undermining dichotomies, Deleuze forwards an understanding of how the human appropriation of islands captures the singularity of creation that incessantly repeats itself. If islands constitute the nexus between nature and culture, the same can be said about architecture – a literal matter of “framing the earth” as Deleuze, elsewhere, conceptualizes the discipline. Oscillating between scarcity and abundance, domination and autonomy, flows and bubbles, islands indeed seem to crystallize the essential traits of human inhabitation. The distribution of values and displacement of meaning that happens through trade and colonialism are forged into a particular tension with the condensation of space and time that marks the insular condition. Reaping the potential of instituting a world, architecture offers opportunities to critically readdress and forward new understandings of islands, from the seemingly deserted to the overpopulated ones.

By stressing this institution of a world, editors wish to push the discourses around islands into a more productive, critical and speculative mode. Evoking that age-old collusion between utopia, islands, and spatial organisation, what new insights and imaginaries can islands bring to the project of advancing visions for the future? Equally, what can a closer look at the histories of islands and their architectures tell us, especially in the context of colonial histories and narratives, which are often so defining of islands and their architectures? Closely associated with seemingly incompatible differences – isolation and cosmopolitanism, untouched dreamworlds and strategic tax havens – what other aspects of island specificity can be revealed by using architecture as a conceptual and analytical lens? Adopting an understanding of architecture in a widened sense – as practice, knowledge and a way of looking; as process, representation and consolidated capital; as a form of spatial organisation that shapes social conditions as much as being shaped by it – makes us uniquely able to transgress the borders between the real and the imaginary.

With this call, editors ask for abstracts (300–500 words) and a short bio (150–200 words) from authors who wish to contribute to a collection of essays intended for publication with a respected academic publisher. Editors encourage authors to advance from a concrete and named geographical case, a specific island, that can be questioned, explored, and expanded to become a matter of archipelagos on the one hand, or island cities on the other. Editors reserve the right to make a selection of incoming proposals, aiming for a compilation of approx. 16 essays that illustrate the width of the topic in an inventive and interesting way. Authors will be expected to take part in a collaborative process of peer-to-peer feedback to ensure a close-knitted compilation of high academic quality; one or two (online) seminars will therefore be organised as part of the editorial process.

Deadline is 25 March 2022 by e-mail to Marko Jobst [] and Catharina Gabrielsson []. All authors will be notified by 25th April 2022.

About the editors
Catharina Gabrielsson is associate professor in urban theory and design and Docent in Architecture at the School of Architecture KTH, Stockholm. Marko Jobst is independent scholar currently lecturing at the University of Greenwich. Between them, amongst their previously edited / co-edited publications are Neoliberalism on the Ground: Architecture and Transformation from the 1960s to the Present (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020); Architecture and Feminisms: Ecologies, Technologies, Economies (London: Routledge 2017); Deleuze and the City (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016); Architectural Affects after Deleuze and Guattari (London: Routledge 2020); and Queering Architecture: Methods, Practices, Spaces, Pedagogies (London: Bloomsbury forthcoming 2023).

Island Studies Journal
Godfrey Baldacchino (ed.), The Routledge International Handbook of Island Studies (2018), Johannes Riquet, The Aesthetics of Island Space: Perception, Ideology, Geopoetics (2019)
James Randall, An Introduction to Island Studies (2020)

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