Structure and Infrastructure 2

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Historical Geography Specialty Group, Cultural Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM (PST)
Room: Virtual 32
Organizers: Michael Hawkins, Scott Kirsch
Chairs: Michael Hawkins


In recent years infrastructure has been on the agenda in the critical social sciences and cultural studies. Research has examined how built environments of ports, railroads, power plants, and super-highways have facilitated capital’s drive to overcome spatial barriers, how militarist and neoliberal global logistics networks have remade worlds of surfaces, nodes, and flows, and how technological infrastructures have served as politics by other means, linking sites of resource extraction with national and global markets (Cowen 2014, 2019; Khalili 2020; Tadiar 2016; Carse 2017; Uribe 2017). Others have shed light on infrastructure projects, and the reproduction of infrastructure, as techniques of imperialist, racist, and classist governance, wherein the functional and aesthetic transformation of landscapes serves the ambitions of projects of empire, war, and national and international development (Attewell 2018; Domosh 2015; Carse 2014; Chen 2020). Offering the appearance of stability, a seemingly permanent economy of mega-projects works to displace alternative or more subversive political and spatial claims. And yet infrastructure, in its relation to structures of power, remains evasive, difficult to control, generative of new, socially differentiated capacities, and in different ways exceeding our grasp. “Infrastructure, almost by definition, reproduces relations,” as Deborah Cowen (2019:3) argues, “though sometimes in queer ways,” making visible the persistence of resistance and social contest. Taken as both method and object of study (as Cowen suggests), infrastructure offers an important lens onto both surfaces and structures, as well as their mutual constitution. In these paper sessions we hope to dig into these intersections between structure and infrastructure with colleagues pursuing related themes from varied conceptual and geographical vantage points.

In these virtual sessions at the 2021 AAG, we invite scholars to consider the intersection of structure and infrastructure. We hope to encourage conversations and shared research among scholars interested in interrogating the historical and contemporary lived experiences, and calculated plans and politics, of earthmovers dredging sand, stevedores hauling cargo, colonial bureaucrats designing roadbuilding schemes, and business tycoons draining marshes, to name just a few examples. Potential papers may examine how the production of infrastructure serves to secure or reproduce relations of power, or the place of infrastructure in remaking social and ecological worlds, the displacement of marginalized populations, or how it disproportionately tasks certain workers with facilitating the demands of timely circulation.

Works Cited

Attewell, Wes. 2018. “From factory to field: USAID and the logistics of foreign aid in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Carse, Ashley. 2014. Beyond the big ditch: Politics, ecology, and infrastructure at the Panama Canal

Carse, Ashley 2017. “Keyword: infrastructure. How a humble French engineering term shaped the modern world” in P. Harvey, C. Bruun Jensen, A. Morita, Infrastructure and Social Complexity: A Companion (London: Routledge).

Chen, Wanjing. 2020. “The Power of Mirage: State, Capital, and Politics in the Grounding of ‘Belt and Road’ in Laos”, Doctoral Dissertation, UW-Madison

Cowen, Deborah. 2014. The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press)

Cowen, Deborah. 2019. “Following the infrastructures of empire: Notes on cities, settler colonialism, and method” Urban Geography

Domosh, Mona. 2015. “Practising development at home: Race, gender, and the “development” of the American South” Antipode

Khalili, Laleh. 2020. Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula (London: Verso)

Tadiar, Neferti. 2016. “City Everywhere” Theory, Culture & Society

Uribe, S. 2017 Frontier Road: Power, History, and the Everyday State in the Colombian Amazon. Antipode Book Series, Wiley-Blackwell.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Scott Kirsch*, UNC-Chapel Hill, El Caminero: W. Cameron Forbes, Philippine Roadwork, and the Production of Space 15 9:35 AM
Presenter Zannah Matson*, , Marginal de la Selva: Roads and the colonización of Colombia’s National Territories 15 9:50 AM
Presenter Wanjing Chen*, University of Wisconsin-Madison, The Soft Coercions: Political Ecology of Real Estate Enclosure and the Making of Speculative Peasantry in Vientiane, Laos 15 10:05 AM
Presenter Julie Cidell*, University of Illinois, Assembling the Kankakee River: Infrastructure, Energy, and Flow 15 10:20 AM
Discussant Mabel Gergan Vanderbuilt University 15 10:35 AM

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