Some Things are not held together by Glue: Chunambo and other ‘Sticky Matter’ in Subtropical Macao, China




land reclamation, porosity, chunambo, concrete, urban development, New Materialism, matter, tropical climate, Macao, China


This article uses adhesives or what I am calling here ‘sticky matter,’ to illustrate multispecies relationships in Macao, a subtropical coastal region in South China. It focuses primarily on a traditional rammed earth material known as chunambo in Macao and other former Portuguese colonies. Composed of oyster shell, straw, rice, local soils and sand chemically bounded together by slacked lime, this precursor to modern day concrete has a unique combination of porosity and structural integrity that makes it particularly adaptable to tropical climates and a contrast to contemporary building practices which are often designed to create sealed interior environments. Discussions of porosity within New Materialism, Urban Studies and Chinese aesthetics will be used to think stickiness alongside questions of material integrity in the face of sea level rise, erosion and anthropogenic forces. Much like limestone sediments formed over the course of thousands of years at the bottom of ancient tropical sea beds, chunambo invites speculation about material permanence in the face of climate futures and a changing urban environment.

Author Biography

Benjamin Kidder Hodges, University of Macau, Macao, China

Dr Benjamin Kidder Hodges is an artist and anthropologist whose research-based art and writing draw on folklore, mythology and media archaeology to call attention to overlooked histories. This involves building links between material culture and affects from boredom to shock. His recent work draws attention to multispecies relationships and ecological concerns. Benjamin completed his Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin under the supervision of Kathleen Stewart and received a Fulbright grant to conduct dissertation research on media in Bulgaria in the early 2000s. This led to his dissertation “Special Affect: Special Effects, Sensation, and Futures in Post-Socialist Bulgaria.” He has taught in Europe, Asia and the U.S. Since 2008, he has been an Assistant Professor at the University of Macau where he teaches filmmaking workshops, media studies, and cultural studies within the Department of Communication.


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How to Cite

Hodges, B. K. (2022). Some Things are not held together by Glue: Chunambo and other ‘Sticky Matter’ in Subtropical Macao, China. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 21(2), 198–216.