This article examines transportation infrastructures’ capacity to produce and transform social space through a focus on the contested history of railway development in Valsusa, Italy. I draw on participant observation and interviews with local residents and activists during ethnographic fieldwork in 2014–2015. I first describe how railways helped form modern sociality in Valsusa in the twentieth century. Subsequently, I explore contrasting topological effects of a projected high-speed rail through the valley. For planners envisioning a trans-European space of exchange, the railway is a powerful way to “shrink” space; for local residents, this implies reducing Valsusa to a traffic “corridor.” Yet their protest generates new social relations and knowledges, giving rise to a notion of “territory” as unbound and connected to a transnational space of resistance to capitalist expansion.
Mateusz Laszczkowski is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Warsaw. His research interests include political anthropology, power and resistance, social movements, the anthropology of place and space, material infrastructures, and the environment. He is the author of “City of the Future”: Built Space, Modernity and Urban Change in Astana (Berghahn Books, 2016) and co-editor of Affective States: Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions (with Madeleine Reeves; Berghahn Books, 2018). E-mail: email@example.com.