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Extraction, Roads, and Geopolitical Infrastructure in the South Caucasus

Authors: Jesse Swann-Quinn*, Syracuse University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography, Eurasia
Keywords: Mining, extraction, geopolitics, infrastructure, South Caucasus
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Appel et al. (2018) recently remind us that "infrastructure is a terrain of power and contestation" (2), and roads often prove especially potent examples of such political technologies. Mining roads are no exception (Jackson 2015) as mines of course only exist through their situation within broader networks of power, capital, resources, and experience. Such infrastructures play crucial roles within broader geopolitical constructs or assemblages, including in the South Caucasus (e.g., Barry 2013). In this paper I adopt a lens of lived geopolitics to compare two political geographies of mining roads from the South Caucasus and unpack the diverse work such extractive infrastructures do. These cases – Georgia’s Sakdrisi-Madneuli mining complex and Armenia’s proposed Amulsar mine site – each illustrate how mines fit within broader geopolitical networks through their roads. In each context mining roads exist simultaneously as objects of dissatisfaction and conduits for extraction. However, they also serve as vectors for political protest and contesting regime legitimacy, producing divergent geopolitical assemblages within the Belt and Road Initiative’s long shadow.

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