Asian Symposium: Rethinking the Politics of South Asia’s Infrastructures: Towards New Scalar, Methodological, and Theoretical Approaches 1

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Asian Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Virginia C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Yaffa Truelove, Heather Bedi
Chairs: Heather Bedi

Call for Submissions

If interested in participating in this paper session, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to and by October 10th, 2018. We will get back to all authors within one week.


This paper session brings together scholars working across South Asia’s diverse infrastructures to query new scalar, methodological, and theoretical approaches attentive to infrastructural politics in the region. In what is now termed the “infrastructural turn,” a growing interdisciplinary scholarship conceptualizes infrastructure as a socio-material assemblage of both human and non-human associations. By revealing the simultaneous social, cultural, political, and material dimensions of infrastructure, this literature illuminates the differing agencies and power relations that shape socio-technical systems. Broadly, this work demonstrates that infrastructures are not only projects of state-making that articulate new temporalities, spatialities, and modes of state power (Rankin, et al., 2018; Murton, 2017; Harvey & Knox, 2015; Bedi, 2018), but infrastructures often exhibit “a life of their own” in shaping sociality, everyday experiences, and subjectivities in often unpredictable and unanticipated ways (Amin, 2014; Simone, 2004; Meehan, 2014; Anand, 2015; Millington, 2018; Truelove, 2016; Sabhlok 2017). Within this burgeoning field, scholars of South Asia have brought the region’s diverse colonial and postcolonial histories and contemporary geopolitical dynamics to the forefront in interrogating the politics, poetics, and power of a broad range of infrastructural projects: from roads and energy procurement to urban water, waste, and dams. In this paper session, we seek to bring scholars working on the politics of South Asia’s infrastructure into conversation in order to deepen understandings of the region’s complex infrastructural geographies, and build bridges that span across studies that focus on the urban, rural, extra-territorial space, and zones of exception. Possible paper topics might include, but are not limited to:
• The environmental, political, aesthetic, social, and historical registers of infrastructures in the region
• The material and organizational infrastructures of social life in South Asia, including the role of the state and other mediating institutions
• Violence, pacification and dispossession that result from securitizing, militarizing, or splintering infrastructures
• The use of infrastructure to normalize land acquisitions and/ or population displacement
• The social relations that connect the body to infrastructure, necessitating particular everyday practices and/or labor that reinforce gender/race/caste/ ethnoreligious power geometries
• New theorizations regarding the temporality and spatiality of South Asia’s infrastructural projects
• Nascent methodological approaches attentive to the scalar dimensions of infrastructure, including the body, neighborhood, national and global scales (and their entanglement)
• Intersections between infrastructure, uneven development, and marginalization
• The tensions between conflicting infrastructural imaginaries, and their accompanying discursive and material forms of power
• The socio-political dynamics accompanying infrastructural decay, repair, disruption, and maintenance
• The role of “expert knowledge” and/ or techno-politics in shaping infrastructural (in)visibilities, trajectories, and futures

If interested in participating in this paper session, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to and by October 10th, 2018. We will get back to all authors within one week.


Anand, N (2015) Leaky states: Water audits, ignorance, and the politics of infrastructure. Public Culture, 27(2): 305-330.

Amin, A. 2014. Lively infrastructure. Theory, Culture & Society 31(7-8): 137-161.

Bedi, H. P. (2018). ‘Our energy, our rights’: National extraction legacies and contested energy justice futures in Bangladesh. Energy Research & Social Science, 41, 168-175.

Harvey, P and Knox, H. 2015. Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Meehan, K. 2014. Tool-power: Water infrastructure as wellsprings of state power. Geoforum 57: 215-224.

Millington, N. (2018). Producing water scarcity in São Paulo, Brazil: The 2014-2015 water crisis and the binding politics of infrastructure. Political Geography, 65, 26-34.

Murton, Galen. 2017. “Making Mountain Places into State Spaces: Infrastructure, Consumption, and Territorial Practice in a Himalayan Borderland.” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 107(2): 536–45.

Rankin, K. N., Nightingale, A. J., Hamal, P., & Sigdel, T. S. (2018). Roads of change: political transition and state formation in Nepal’s agrarian districts. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 45(2), 280-299.

Sabhlok, A. (2017). ‘Main Bhi to Hindostaan Hoon’: gender and nation-state in India’s Border Roads Organisation. Gender, Place & Culture, 24(12), 1711-1728.

Simone, A. (2004). People as infrastructure: intersecting fragments in Johannesburg. Public Culture, 16(3), 407-429.

Truelove, Y. 2016. Incongruent Waterworlds: Situating the everyday practices and power of water in Delhi. South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 14.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Saumya Vaishnava*, Pennsylvania State University, Ashwini Chitnis, Prayas (Energy Group), A tale of two utilities: Competition and electricity distribution in Mumbai 20 9:55 AM
Presenter Elizabeth Chatterjee*, Queen Mary University of London, Green lights, black vetoes: the subnational politics of renewable energy in India 20 10:15 AM
Presenter Heather Bedi*, Dickinson College, “Lead the district into the light”: The Politics of Solar Infrastructure in India 20 10:35 AM
Presenter Vikramaditya Thakur*, , Addressing Forced Displacement: Bureaucracy, Bhils and the Narmada Dam Project in Western India 20 10:55 AM

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