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Geopolitical Infrastructures III

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group
Organizers: Mary Mostafanezhad, Galen Murton
Chairs: Galen Murton


While geographers have addressed the materiality of infrastructures, we know markedly less about their sociality and how they become enrolled in geopolitical discourse and practice. Human geographers’ recent work demonstrates how the development of roads, dams, grids, canals, and other infrastructural things can serve, on the one hand, as diplomatic vehicles of cooperation and resolution and, on the other, as drivers of conflict and distantiation (Jones 2012; Akhter 2019). Frequently enacted as a broader state-building exercise (Meehan, 2014; Murton, 2017), infrastructural developments can engender a range of political responses. For instance, while failed infrastructures frequently threaten national and inter-state governance (Anand, 2015; Millington, 2018), successful developments can drive new geoeconomic patterns and hegemonic processes between states and citizenries.

Examining the ways in which international commitments to infrastructural investment and construction are leveraged to advance specific geopolitical interests, this panel considers infrastructures as material and symbolic entities that both take shape within and simultaneously shape broader political geographies. In their symbolic form, infrastructures reflect the ideals of progress, however unevenly distributed (Anand, Gupta, & Appel, 2018). In their material form, infrastructures produce new matter that shapes spaces of inclusion and exclusion (Bennett, 2010; Björkman, 2015). The symbolic and material coproduction of infrastructures thereby enables a political economy of governance that can perpetuate ongoing inequalities, set new terms of mobility and containment, trigger the circulation of complex and uncertain narratives, and foster widespread hope as well as anxiety among populations across scales (Carse & Kneas, 2019). Papers in this panel draw on the sociality of infrastructure (Amin 2014; Simone 2004) and trans-local conditions of international development to push forward emerging work on the geopolitics of infrastructure in a diversity of geographic and cultural contexts


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Michael Dwyer*, Indiana University, A new organic machine? Emergent geographies of energy infrastructure in (and beyond) northern Laos 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Mia Bennett*, , China as a geological power 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Kwame Adovor*, University of Minnesota, ‘Soft Power’ and the Impact of the Bui Hydropower dam on China – Ghana Relationship 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Stuart Aitken*, San Diego State University, Rapid Infrastructural Development, ‘Futures’ and Sustainable Ethics in Northern Guizhou Province, China 15 12:00 AM
Discussant Weiqiang Lin National University of Singapore 15 12:00 AM

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