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Unbuilt and Unfinished

The Temporalities of Infrastructure

Ashley Carse and David Kneas

Abstract

Infrastructures have proven to be useful focal points for understanding social phenomena. The projects of concern in this literature are often considered complete or, if not, their materialization is assumed to be imminent. However, many—if not most—of the engineered artifacts and systems classified as infrastructure exist in states aptly characterized as unbuilt or unfinished. Bringing together scholarship on unbuilt and unfinished infrastructures from anthropology, architecture, geography, history, and science and technology studies, this article examines the ways in which temporalities articulate as planners, builders, politicians, potential users, and opponents negotiate with a project and each another. We develop a typology of heuristics for analyzing the temporalities of the unbuilt and unfinished: shadow histories, present absences, suspended presents, nostalgic futures, and zombies. Each heuristic makes different temporal configurations visible, suggesting novel research questions and methodological approaches.

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The Urban Politics of Mega-Events

Grand Promises Meet Local Resistance

John Lauermann

Abstract

This article reviews recent scholarship on the urban politics of mega-events. Mega-events have long been promoted as drivers of urban development, based on their potential to generate beneficial legacies for host cities. Yet the mega-event industry is increasingly struggling to find cities willing to host. Political arguments that promote mega-events to host cities include narratives about mega-event legacy—the potential for events to generate long-term benefits—and mega-event leveraging—the idea that cities can strategically link event planning to other policy agendas. In contrast, the apparent decline in interest among potential host cities stems from two political shifts: skepticism toward the promises made by boosters, and the emergence of new kinds of protest movements. The article analyzes an example of largely successful opposition to mega-events, and evaluates parallels between the politics of mega-events and those of other urban megaprojects.

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What Makes a Megaproject?

A Review of Global Hydropower Assemblages

Grant M. Gutierrez, Sarah Kelly, Joshua J. Cousins, and Christopher Sneddon

Abstract

This article reviews how global hydropower assemblages catalyze socio-ecological change in the world's rivers. As a quintessential megaproject, massive dams and the hydropower they generate have long captivated the modernist development imaginary. Yet, despite growing recognition of the socio-ecological consequences of hydropower, it has recently assumed a central role in supporting renewable energy transitions. We highlight three trends in hydropower politics that characterize global hydropower assemblages: mega-dams as markers of nation-state development; river protection by territorial alliances and social movements opposed to hydropower; and transitions from spectacular, centralized hydropower installations to the propagation of small and large hydropower within climate mitigation schemes. We offer insights on how global hydropower assemblages force examination beyond traditional categories of “mega” through more holistic and grounded analyses of significance.

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Anthropocene Dynamics in the Prehistoric Pacific

Modeling Emergent Socioecological Outcomes of Environmental Change

Thomas P. Leppard

How will human societies evolve in the face of the massive changes humans themselves are driving in the earth systems? Currently, few data exist with which to address this question. I argue that archaeological datasets from islands provide useful models for understanding long-term socioecological responses to large-scale environmental change, by virtue of their longitudinal dimension and their relative insulation from broader biophysical systems. Reviewing how colonizing humans initiated biological and physical change in the insular Pacific, I show that varied adaptations to this dynamism caused diversification in social and subsistence systems. This diversification shows considerable path dependency related to the degree of heterogeneity/homogeneity in the distribution of food resources. This suggests that the extent to which the Anthropocene modifies agroeconomic land surfaces toward or away from patchiness will have profound sociopolitical implications.

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Campesinos del Nudo del Paramillo

Entre la guerra y el desarrollismo

Andrés Tavera Franco

*Full article is in Spanish

English abstract: This article examines collective actions led by peasant communities in the Paramillo Massif in Colombia. It juxtaposes these locally defined development proposals focused on maintaining the balance between society and the environment with dominant neoliberal development models implemented by the Colombian State that promote developmentalism and seemingly exacerbate armed conflict in the country. The article frames this analysis within the context of political ecology, with the purpose of questioning the ideological bases for large-scale development that negatively impacts local communities both socially and environmentally.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo examina acciones colectivas lideradas por comunidades campesinas en el Nudo del Paramillo, Colombia. El autor yuxtapone estas propuestas de desarrollo definidas localmente centradas en mantener el equilibrio entre la sociedad y el medio ambiente, con modelos dominantes de desarrollo neoliberal implementados por el Estado colombiano que promueven el desarrollismo y aparentemente exacerban los conflictos armados en el país. El artículo enmarca este análisis dentro del contexto de la ecología política, con el propósito de cuestionar las bases ideológicas para el desarrollo a gran escala que impacta negativamente a las comunidades locales tanto social como ambientalmente.

French abstract: Cet article examine les actions collectives menées par des communautés paysannes du Nudo del Paramillo, en Colombie. Il juxtapose les propositions de développement définies à l’échelle locale et centrées sur le maintien d’un équilibre entre la société et l’environnement avec les modèles de développement néolibéral mis en oeuvre par l’État colombien qui promeuvent le développementalisme et exacerbent apparemment le conflit armé dans le pays. L’article formule cette analyse dans le contexte de l’écologie politique, dans le but de questionner les bases idéologiques d’un développement à grande échelle qui a des impacts négatifs sur les communautés aussi bien sur le plan social qu’environnemental.

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Inclusive innovation and sustainable development in affordable habitat

From the linear intervention model to Social Technological Systems

Facundo Picabea

English abstract: In the last thirty years, Latin America has seen a significant growth in a set of approaches, schools of thought and social movements, which posit that is impossible to effect a transformation in the region without processes focused on inclusion and democracy. Recent analyses on some of these trends reveal the existence of linear and deterministic assumptions in the various models used to address the issue. From the analytical dimension to the regulatory, this work puts forward an inclusive and participatory development model. Unlike technological systems based on income maximization, private appropriation and benefit restriction, Social Technological Systems represent a systemic strategic vision: new development paths, new ways of thinking about problems and socio-technical solutions, and new ways of exercising democracy.

Spanish abstract: En los últimos treinta años, América Latina ha visto crecer significativamente un conjunto de enfoques, corrientes y movimientos sociales que sostienen la imposibilidad de transformar la región si no es a través de procesos que valoricen la inclusión y la democracia. Recientes análisis sobre algunas de estas corrientes ponen en evidencia la continuidad de supuestos lineales y deterministas. De la dimensión analítica a la regulatoria, este trabajo propone un modelo de desarrollo inclusivo y participativo. Frente a los sistemas tecnológicos basados en la maximización de la renta, la apropiación privada y la restricción de los beneficios, los Sistemas Tecnológicos Sociales responden a una visión estratégica sistémica: nuevos senderos de desarrollo, nuevas formas de concebir problemas y soluciones socio-técnicas, nuevas formas de ejercer la democracia.

French abstract: Durant les trente dernières années, l’Amérique latine a connu la croissance significative d’un ensemble d’approches, d’écoles de pensée et de mouvements sociaux qui revendiquent l’impossibilité d’une transformation dans la région sans processus inclusifs et démocratiques. Des analyses récentes de certaines de ces tendances révèlent l’existence de suppositions linéaires et déterministes dans les modèles utilisés. Partant d’une dimension analytique vers une perspective règlementaire, ce travail revendique un modèle de développement inclusif et participatif. A la différence des systèmes technologiques fondés sur la maximisation des revenus, l’appropriation privée et la restriction des bénéfices, les Systèmes Sociaux Technologiques représentent une vision systémique stratégique : des voies et des manières nouvelles pour penser les problèmes et les solutions sociotechniques et des formes novatrices d’exercice démocratique.

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Giorgio Osti

The article aims to add a ludic perspective to those generally used for studying environmental issues in social sciences. To introduce in the debate a play/game metaphor enriches the interpretations of environmental crisis and provides a further motivation to action. The ludic perspective has a sociorelational background. That tradition of studies helps in constructing a set of categories that are then applied to environmental education (EE). The choice of such a topic is motivated by two factors: EE is an aspect generally practiced but mistreated in the main theorizations, and EE is exemplary of the potentialities of the playing games metaphor, which are the desire to create, the acceptance of slow changes, the protection of an experimental bubble, and irony toward environmental issues.

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"The Master Plan is a Master Killer"

Land dispossession and powerful resistance in Oromia, Ethiopia

Gutu Olana Wayessa

English abstract: Land is a key resource and an epicenter of struggle in Ethiopia, as indicated by the incident that sparked a powerful protest in Oromia in 2015. The protest quickly galvanized against the Addis Ababa Master Plan, which government officials represented as a “development plan,” while the protesters counter-framed it as a “Master Killer,” highlighting the immanent risks of land dispossession and displacement of people. This article employs a political-ecological approach to examine environmental, socio-cultural, and political-economic implications of the Master Plan and the resistance against it as a signifier of wider issues of contestation connected to land and displacement. It highlights contemporary grievances of the Oromo people in relation to unresolved historical questions and outlines the responses of the government to the protest.

Spanish abstract: La tierra es un recurso clave y un epicentro de lucha en Etiopía. En el 2015 surgió una poderosa protesta en Oromia contra el Plan Maestro de Addis Abeba, presentado por el gobierno como un “plan de desarrollo”, mientras que los manifestantes lo enmarcaron como un “Asesino Maestro”, destacando los inminentes riesgos de la desposesión de tierras y el desplazamiento de personas. Este artículo emplea un enfoque político-ecológico para examinar las implicaciones ambientales, socioculturales y político-económicas del Plan Maestro y la resistencia en su contra como resultado de temas más amplios de disputa relacionados con la tierra y el desplazamiento. Destaca las quejas contemporáneas de la gente de Oromo en relación con preguntas históricas no resueltas y describe las respuestas del gobierno a la protesta.

French abstract: La terre est une ressource clef et un motif central de conflit en Éthiopie. Les circonstances actuelles du pays accentuent cette tendance historique. En témoigne la protestation des Oromos contre le Programme Directeur d’Addis-Abeba que les fonctionnaires présentent comme un programme de développement alors que les protestataires le désignent comme “un maître-tueur”, en pointant les risques de dépossession de la terre et de déplacement de populations qui lui sont inhérents. Cet article utilise une approche d’écologie politique pour examiner ses implications dans le sens d’une protestation autour de la terre et du déplacement. Il analyse le programme directeur et la protestation des Oromos dans le cadre des principes idéologiques et structurels du gouvernement, de ses politiques et de ses pratiques.

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Sandy Astrid Medina Valdivia

Regions & Cohesion is proud to present three photographs by Sandy Astrid Medina Valdivia that describe her research visit to a fishing community in the State of Guerrero in Southern Mexico. “El Veinte” is self-named “a community of fishermen and fisherwomen,” which is well recognized in the region. For more than 50 years they have forged a close relationship with the Laguna de Nuxco coastal wetland, as this has provided them with various survival benefits. These images reflect the livelihood of the community: their fishing activity, which in fact represents their major economic income immersed in a sustainable relationship with the environment that shapes their way of life.

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Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda

June 5 is World Environment Day, also known as Eco-day. It is an environmental awareness day run by the United Nations (UN). Of course, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, also run by the UN, now dominates our discussions of sustainability in global affairs. However, localized visions of sustainable development continue to thrive. These development models are based on local movements that include a variety of actors with concrete grievances and focused visions for the futures of their communities. These movements and visions are relevant for World Environment Day because they reflect the spirit of this initiative through grassroots activities.