Political Ecologies of Infrastructure


Political ecologists have drawn on a broad range of theories and methods to understand the social and material dimensions of infrastructure.  Whether examining the planetary scale of infrastructures connecting urban spaces and global production-consumption networks (Arboleda, 2016; Brenner & Schmid, 2014; Easterling, 2014) or the situated practices, daily struggles, and social movements animating the politics of infrastructure (Anand, 2011; Meehan, 2014; Silver, 2014; Von Schnitzler, 2013), infrastructure is emerging as an analytical approach to examine the “abstractions and material assemblages” of nature-society relationships (Carse, 2016). As political ecology is broadly interested in the shifting relationships between human and non-human worlds, how does a focus on infrastructure add to this understanding? For this paper session, we seek to stimulate dialogue across the spectrum of political ecological approaches and perspectives of infrastructure. We invite papers drawing from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches, including science and technology studies, socio-technical systems, assemblage theory, etc. The goal of the session is to bring together scholarship on the social, ecological, and technological dimensions of infrastructure. While critical engagement and new approaches to the concept are encouraged, we are similarly curious to explore: the influence of ecology and ecological theory on the study of infrastructure; critiques of trends in the scholarship on infrastructure; approaches to new materialism outside and beyond infrastructure; creative methodological approaches to infrastructure.  


Potential topics and themes:


Standards and metrics of infrastructure governance

Social movements

Placed-based knowledge and identity

Environmental justice and infrastructural displacement

Socio-technical transitions

Object oriented ontologies

Resource flows

Infrastructural failures

Environmental history

Infrastructural imaginaries, fantasy, spectacle


Please send abstracts and contact information to Grant Gutierrez (grant.m.gutierrez.gr@dartmouth.edu) and Josh Cousins (joshua.j.cousins@dartmouth.edu) by November 28, 2016. 




Anand, N. (2011). Pressure: The PoliTechnics of Water Supply in Mumbai. Cultural Anthropology, 26(4), 542–564. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1360.2011.01111.x

Arboleda, M. (2016). In the Nature of the Non-City: Expanded Infrastructural Networks and the Political Ecology of Planetary Urbanisation. Antipode, 48(2), 233–251. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12175

Brenner, N., & Schmid, C. (2014). The “Urban Age” in Question. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(3), 731–755.https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2427.12115

Carse, A. (2016). Keyword: Infrastructure – How a Humble French Engineering Term Shaped the Modern World. In P. Harvey, C. B. Jensen, & A. Morita (Eds.), Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Routledge Companion. London and New York: Routledge.

Easterling, K. (2014). Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space. London and Brooklyn: Verso.

Meehan, K. M. (2014). Tool-power: Water infrastructure as wellsprings of state power. Geoforum, 57, 215–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.08.005

Silver, J. (2014). Incremental infrastructures: material improvisation and social collaboration across post-colonial Accra. Urban Geography, 3638(November 2015), Published on line July, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2014.933605

Von Schnitzler, A. (2013). Traveling technologies: Infrastructure, ethical regimes, and the materiality of politics in South Africa. Cultural Anthropology, 28(4), 670–693. https://doi.org/10.1111/cuan.12032



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