Infrastructure – Peripheral Visions and Bodies that Matter: A Commentary

*A commentary on Part II of our Engagement thematic series, The Nature of Infrastructure. By Bettina Stoetzer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology § In the past few years, the keyword “infrastructure” has proliferated within anthropological literature. Many ethnographies have taken a close look at the ways in which physical networks, such as roads, canals, trains, sewage […]

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Infrastructural Recursions: Volcanic Landscapes, Instability and Energy Production

By James Maguire, IT University of Copenhagen § Walking through the Hengill volcanic zone (figure 1) with my geologist companions in the southwest of Iceland is a powerful experience. Dark basaltic lava-encrusted rocks are strewn all about us. Diminutive craggy structures blend together like multi-layered mobius strips such that it’s hard to distinguish where one rock […]

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Excavating the Chesapeake: Exploring the Intersecting Geological, Political, and Technical Layers that Constitute a Watershed

By Jeremy Trombley, University of Maryland, College Park § My research looks at the entities and interactions that constitute the Chesapeake Bay watershed – specifically the role that computational models have played in the process. In this post – departing somewhat from my comfort zone talking about lines and knots and rhizomes – I want to engage […]

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Walking over Water: Piers, Docks, and Coastal Infrastructure

By Barbara Quimby, San Diego State & UC Santa Barbara § To enter the village of Haloban, a fishing community of about 1,500 people in the islands of Pulau Banyak in Aceh, Indonesia, you must step from your swaying boat onto the stable wooden planks of the docks. Most days, you will also need to navigate […]

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In the Sand: Water, Land, and Infrastructure in Informality

By Angela Storey, University of Arizona § Milk crates are a common sight when walking the narrow paths of informal settlements in Khayelitsha, a Cape Town suburb where more than half of the area’s 400,000 residents live in shacks on squatted land. Set upside down into the ground, the plastic latticework of a crate’s base […]

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Choosing Paths, Not Roads

By Madhuri Karak, CUNY Graduate Center § Walking in Niyamgiri, in Odisha, India, never ceased to be a sensorial onslaught for me. There are no asphalt roads, only trails and paths flanked by dense forests. During the monsoons, even these disappear under streams of mud. People commonly distinguish between raasta – road – and jongol raasta, roads in the […]

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The Anthropology of the Built Environment: What Can Environmental Anthropology Learn from Infrastructure Studies (and Vice Versa)?

*A commentary on Part I of our Engagement thematic series, The Nature of Infrastructure. By Ashley Carse, Vanderbilt University § I am honored to have an opportunity to comment on this captivating series of blog posts on The Nature of Infrastructure. Though brief, each piece brings us into an infrastructural world. We learn about coastal […]

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An “Ecological Path” in Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park: On the Reflexivity of Oil Infrastructure

By Peter Taber, University of Arizona § Yasuní National Park is Ecuador’s largest Amazonian protected area, one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and the site of multiple waves of oil development since the late 1980s. Since August 2013, contentious plans for drilling in the eastern-most portion of the park have moved forward. […]

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Silo as System: Infrastructural Interventions into the Political Economy of Wheat

By Ateya Khorakiwala, Harvard University § This post underscores how the seemingly straightforward and yet iconic American silo evolved into a different kind of storage infrastructure when it encountered India’s histories and geographies of wheat. The American grain elevator – a specific kind of silo – holds a singular place in the history of architectural […]

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On Rust

By Stephanie McCallum, University of California, Santa Cruz § Recent scholarship in anthropology has addressed infrastructure not in its fully functioning capabilities, but as it falls apart (e.g. Chu 2014). In a similar vein, here I attend to rust as a manifestation of infrastructural deterioration. Based on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork (September 2013 – October 2014) […]

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