The Last Fish, Phantom Islands, and Reef Ruins: Unsettling Logics of Permanence


  • Jeffner Allen Binghamton University, State University of New York



At the core of this contribution are reflections about catastrophe in the context of the coral reef communities of eastern Sulawesi, and about modes of thinking, imagining, understanding, and being-in-relation. To that end, the writing unsettles and challenges expectations of a stable point of view from which catastrophic events, which are inseparable from how they are conceived, might be overseen. Local sayings and transregional scholarship regarding those say-ings offer a vital repository of knowledge and ways of knowing that is integral to this work. A proverb, Sama tales, and multiple narratives of the volcanic eruptions on the island of Una-Una foreground the navigation of change and impermanence by the communities and creatures of land and sea that inhabit the surrounding waters. The author, a philosopher, poet, and diver, begins the composition gazing upward from within the currents, as the reef awakens just before dawn.

Keywords: reef communities; Sulawesi; proverb; volcanic eruption; living-through




How to Cite

Allen, J. (2023). The Last Fish, Phantom Islands, and Reef Ruins: Unsettling Logics of Permanence. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 19(2), 94–110.