CFP: Structure and Infrastructure
Call for papers for a virtual session or sessions, AAG Meeting, April 7-11, 2021
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 this paper session we hope to dig into these
intersections between structure and infrastructure with colleagues pursuing related themes from varied
conceptual and geographical vantage points.
In this call for papers for a virtual session or 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. Or something else entirely – please let us know if you are
interested in participating.
Mike Hawkins (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Scott Kirsch (email@example.com)
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.