Geopolitical Infrastructures III

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Development Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 30
Organizers: Galen Murton, Mary Mostafanezhad
Chairs: Galen Murton


Geopolitical Infrastructures I-III

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.

This is the third session of a three part panel.

Akhter, M. (2019). Adjudicating infrastructure: Treaties, territories, hydropolitics. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Anand, N., Gupta, A., & Appel, H. (Eds.). (2018). The promise of infrastructure. Durham: Duke University Press.
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.
Bennet, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.
Björkman, L. (2015). Pipe politics, contested waters: Embedded infrastructures of millennial Mumbai. Durham: Duke University Press.
Carse, A., & Kneas, D. (2019). Unbuilt and Unfinished: The Temporalities of Infrastructure. Environment and Society, 10(1), 9-28.
Jones, R. (2012). Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel. London: Zed Books.
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.
Simone, A. (2004). People as infrastructure: intersecting fragments in Johannesburg. Public Culture, 16(3), 407-429.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Jessica DiCarlo*, University of Colorado Boulder, Revival, revision, and competition: The corridor as (geo)political infrastructure in northern Laos 15 11:10 AM
Presenter Mei-huan Chen*, Pennsylvania State University, From frontline to bridge: The politics of water infrastructure in Kinmen 15 11:25 AM
Presenter Nadine Plachta*, South Asia Institute, Centralizing Peripheries: Infrastructure, Development, and New Markets between Nepal and China 15 11:40 AM

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