Gendered Infrastructures 3: exploring dialectics of form, space and identity

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM (MDT)
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Organizers: Ritajyoti Bandhopadhyay, Anu Sabhlok
Chairs: Ritajyoti Bandhopadhyay


This session will discuss emergent themes from the previous two paper sessions.

There has recently been a surge of discussions surrounding infrastructure.
Research on roads, architecture, walls, urban infrastructures and digital
infrastructures have used analytical perspectives ranging from the right
to the city framework, assemblages (Anand 2017), political ecology,
geopolitics (Akhtar 2013, Corey and Derrick 2012, Fluri 2011) and STS
(Furlong 2011). According to the anthropologist Brian Larkin (2011)
infrastructures need to be studied using a systems approach. In this same
vein, it can be argued that a study of infrastructures needs to stretch
across space and socio-political and ecological processes. There are two
areas to which this literature has paid scant attention: first it has
mostly been urban centric, for the large part ignoring rural
infrastructures and connections (often gendered) of urban infrastructure
with rural political economies; and second there is limited focus on the
gendered dimensions of the 'infrastructure turn' the exception being
certain domains of architecture and urban planning.

Infrastructures are objects/things and they represent relations between
things (Larkin 2013). As things, infrastructure appear to our senses as
physical things. But, as relations between things, they often escape our
sensual registers, and thus appear socially neutral. As a relational
device, infrastructure enables the encounter between things physically
separated from each other. Therefore, it is important to understand
infrastructure as different from technology. Infrastructure, on the other
hand, as matter which allows other matter to thrive, flow, move,
conceptually stands out as an analytical a priori of technology or, let us
say, apparatus as a concept. This is because it adverts to an ontological
matrix on which it is possible to understand and analyze the
instrumentalities of power. It is in the contingency of relationalities
and path dependencies of access that infrastructures come to
operationalize disruptions, socio-spatial segregation, and deprivation
(Bandyopadhyay 2017). Infrastructures thus shape our subjectivities and in
turn are shaped by our modes of growing up with them. No wonder, embodied
engagements with infrastructure produce gendered subjectivities.
Infrastructures are created using gendered bodies, they enable/disable
gendered performances and evoke gendered desires and emotions (Harvey
2015, Sabhlok 2017).

In this session, we pay attention to the spaces inside and around
infrastructural projects/objects to see how they shape and are shaped by
gender. We are inviting papers that address infrastructures from the
perspective of gender and/or using a feminist geographic perspective. We
suggest a few themes below but are open to other interpretations:
1. Who exercises what kind of access to a certain infrastructure facility?
What governs the terms and tenures of inclusion?
2. How infrastructures enable certain mobilities that challenge/reproduce
gendered identities?
3.How infrastructural forms acquire gendered meanings and rely on gendered
4. The dialectic between built space/form and socio-spatial performances
that it enables or constrains
5. The emotive and affective dimensions of infrastructure: How does
infrastructure facilitate/re-configure/destroy older habits? How do users
attach meaning to infrastructure [along the gender spectrum]? How much of
it is anticipated and built into the infrastructural facilities? In what
ways the everyday life of the infrastructure exceeds its intended use?
6. Infrastructure and the body: heteronormativity of infrastructural
facilities: To what extent does infrastructure represent reproductive
heteronormative sociality? How do "other bodies" create, reconfigure and
're-function' materialities of infrastructures?
7. What do we learn from infrastructure failures? What are the
things/issues about socio-material and reproductive relations that surface
when a particular infrastructure ceases to work or breaks down?
8. How does infrastructure, as an apparatus of rule, also enables
political resistance and empowers disadvantaged groups to appropriate
crucial services?

Through discussions in this session we aspire to come to a feminist
geographic understanding of what has come to be called the 'infrastructure

Akhter, Majed. The geopolitics of infrastructure: Development, expertise,
and nation on the Indus Rivers. The University of Arizona, 2013.
Bandyopadhyay, Ritajyoti. Obstruction: Counter-pedestrianism and
Trajestories of an Infrastructure Public, Decision, 44, 2, 121-132.
Broto, Vanesa Castán, and Harriet Bulkeley. "Maintaining climate change
experiments: Urban political ecology and the everyday reconfiguration of
urban infrastructure." International Journal of Urban and Regional
Research 37.6 (2013): 1934-1948.
Fluri, Jennifer. "Armored peacocks and proxy bodies: gender geopolitics in
aid/development spaces of Afghanistan." Gender, Place & Culture 18.4
(2011): 519-536.
Furlong, Kathryn. "Small technologies, big change: Rethinking
infrastructure through STS and geography." Progress in Human Geography
35.4 (2011): 460-482.
Harvey, Penny. "Materials." Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural
Anthropology website, September 24, 2015.
McFarlane, Colin. "The city as assemblage: dwelling and urban space."
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29.4 (2011): 649-671.
Johnson, Corey, and Matthew Derrick. "A splintered heartland: Russia,
Europe, and the geopolitics of networked energy infrastructure."
Geopolitics 17.3 (2012): 482-501.
Sabhlok, Anu.'Main Bhi to Hindostaan Hoon': Gender and Nation-State in
India's Border Roads Organization. Gender, Place and Culture (Forthcoming)


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Discussant Anu Sabhlok Indian Institute of Science Education and Research 5 2:00 PM
Discussant Jennifer Fluri University of Colorado, Boulder 5 2:05 PM
Discussant Katharine Rankin University of Toronto 5 2:10 PM
Discussant Timothy Baird Virginia Tech 5 2:15 PM
Discussant Ritwika Biswas Temple University 5 2:20 PM
Discussant Kevin Gould Concordia University 5 2:25 PM
Discussant Yaffa Truelove University of Colorado 5 2:30 PM
Discussant Kathleen O'Reilly Texas A&M University 5 2:35 PM
Discussant Julie Gamble University of Pennsylvania 5 2:40 PM
Discussant Siddharth Menon -- Year -- 5 2:45 PM

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