As the introduction to this special issue points out, railroads are a relatively new object of attention for anthropologists. My response dives more substantially into the question of why they are such compelling sites in this present moment. What does the growing interest in railroads—exemplified by this collection of articles—tell us about current anthropological concerns, as well as about how the discipline might further contribute to wider debates about the politics of infrastructures? The first half of this response considers railroads within academic trajectories, while the second half examines them in relation to wider environmental conversations, especially ongoing public debates about climate-friendly transit.
Heather Anne Swanson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Aarhus University, as well as Director of the Aarhus University Centre for Environmental Humanities. With a long-standing interest in fish, rivers, and oceans, her current work broadly explores how political economies and ecologies are intertwined. Swanson has been a founding member of several research groups that focus on transdisciplinary methods and collaboration across the natural and social sciences, resulting in publications that include the co- edited books Domestication Gone Wild: Politics and Practices of Multispecies Relations (Duke University Press) and Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (Minnesota University Press). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org