This special section explores the various ways in which states of certainty and doubt are generated and sustained, focusing on what we call the ‘infrastructures’ that undergird, enable or develop alongside them. The articles in this collection build on the growing literature on these topics, notably the very extensive recent work on doubt, uncertainty and opacity, and they extend it further by directing attention not to the consequences of these states or people’s responses to them, but instead to the various semiotic, material and social forms that make possible the assertion or recognition of certainty or doubt. We use the idea of ‘infrastructure’ as a heuristic device to explore these processes.
Infrastructures of Certainty and Doubt
Matthew Carey and Morten Axel Pedersen
Das Sein bestimmt das Bewusstsein?
This special issue approaches the interrelated themes of mobility and infrastructure in the Russian Arctic. I will discuss the general topics covered in this set of articles and how these contributions help us understand the lives of people in northern Siberia today, and I will give some context on how these articles came about in the first place. Does being determine consciousness? Or does consciousness determine being? This special issue looks at the complex interplay between people’s perception of well-being and behavior, and their understanding and discourse around infrastructure. Several case studies examine the tension between perception, mobility, and infrastructure in communities across the Russian Arctic.
The Motorway as a Space of Neoliberalism
The article surveys a giant infrastructural construction project in Poland: the A2 motorway, connecting Poznan´ and Warsaw with the Polish-German border. It was the first private motorway in Poland, and the biggest European infrastructural project, and was realized in a public-private partnership system. The last section of A2 was opened on 1 December 2011, which can be seen as a key moment in Polish socioeconomic transformation. I examine it on two levels: (1) a discourse between government and private investors in which the motorway was the medium of economic and social development and infrastructural “the end” modernization of Poland; (2) practices and opinions of local communities, living along the new motorway. On the first level, the construction of A2 was seen as an impetus for the economic and social development of the regions where the motorway was built. But on the second level, I observe almost universal disappointment and a deep crisis experienced by local economies.
Owen White and Elizabeth Heath
This introduction to the dossier “Wine, Economy, and Empire” surveys the place of economic history in the field of French Empire studies over the last twenty years. Drawing upon the concept of “economic life” as defined by William Sewell, the authors argue that a renewed focus on economic activity within the French Empire offers new opportunities to interrogate commonplace ideas about chronology, imperial forms, and structures of power. The article briefly examines some of the specific avenues of inquiry opened by a conception of economic life as socially “embedded,” while highlighting recent works that exemplify the possibilities of this approach for scholars of empire.
Caritas Luxembourg and Norry Schneider
The first version of the declaration (“Outcome Document”) for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or ”Rio+20”), the “Zero Draft”, was released by the UNCSD Secretariat in January 2012. The 19-page document is based on a compilation of inputs received from United Nations (UN) member States and other stakeholders, and it outlines a vision for building a sustainable world. This piece is part of a Caritas Luxembourg position paper sent early February 2012 to the Ministry for sustainable development and infrastructure of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Ministère du Développement Durable et des Infrastructures, or MDDI), in order to inform Luxembourgish government’s position on sustainable development prior to the Rio+20 conference.
Mobility, Transfers, and Cultural Appropriation
In his recent “manifesto” for future “mobility studies,” Stephen Greenblatt demands that studies investigating mobility from a cultural perspective should (a) make sure not to ignore mobility in the “literal sense,” that is, the “physical, infrastructural, and institutional conditions of movement,” (b) pay attention to “hidden” as well as “conspicuous” forms of movement, (c) look at the “contact zones” of cultural transfer, (d) consider the “tension between individual agency and structural constraint” in these processes and, finally, (e) not forget the “sensation” of “locality,” and the “allure” of “local cultures.”1
Crime, Corruption and Entrepreneurship in an Indian Company Town
In the Tata company town of Jamshedpur, incisive popular discourses of corruption posit a mutually beneficial relationship between ‘legitimate’ institutions and organised criminality, a dynamic believed to enable pervasive transformations in the city’s industrial and financial infrastructures. This article situates this local discourse within the wider body of anthropological work on South Asian corruption, noting a discursive departure from the hegemonic, personalised and essentially provincialising corruption models encountered by many researchers. The article interrogates the popular model of crime and corruption in Jamshedpur through a focus upon the business practices of local violent entrepreneurs, exploring the extent to which their negotiations with corrupt institutions and ‘legitimate’ capital may indeed inform their successes. Drawing analytic cues from material on organised crime in the former USSR, this article identifies a mutually beneficial relationship between political influence, violence and industrial capital in an Indian company town.
The Sibirica Editorial Team
This second issue of volume 7 marks the completion of three volumes of Sibirica under the current editorship and with our publisher, Berghahn Books. We have been working to improve the content and delivery of the journal, organizing several issues around special themes, often as the result of interdisciplinary conferences related to the region. Our partnership with Berghahn has been great from the start and is only gaining strength. They have been expanding the electronic infrastructure for web access to subscribers, and Sibirica is accessible through Ingenta via links on Berghahn’s own website. We are in the process of digitizing all the back issues of Sibirica, all the way to its first incarnation as photocopied typescripts in the 1980s. This will give subscribers and others easy access to important scholarly material on Siberian studies.
An Anthropological Investigation into Narratives as a Source of Enquiry in Development Planning
The Chaguanas Borough Corporation in Trinidad and Tobago is currently the fastest-growing borough where economic development is complemented by investment in residential, commercial and infrastructural programmes. In tandem with the local government, an intergovernmental organisation (IGO) sought to understand the sociohistorical context within which economic growth has taken place to inform the IGO’s development plans for the area. This article focuses on local narratives collected in 2013 as part of a historical case study that reveals a complex relationship of citizens to the state within the context of a post-colonial, multi-ethnic society. Using an interpretivist framework of narratives as language, metaphor and knowledge, I examine how narratives reflect the lived experience of economic development as a confluence of history, ethnic identity and neoliberal ideas of entrepreneurship. Their inclusion as a source of enquiry in development planning will ensure that exogenous intervention remains holistic, equitable and informed by historical institutions of social practice.
Jutta A. Helm
For more than a century, Germany has had a well-balanced system
of cities showcasing considerable variety in their social and physical
make-up. It has lacked spectacular global cities like New York,
Tokyo, or London. Instead, western cities include industrial cities
like those in the Rhine-Ruhr Valley and cities shaped by universities
and research (Göttingen or Freiburg), media and publishing (Hamburg),
culture and high-technology sectors (Munich), banking and
finance (Frankfurt/Main), wholesale trade and insurance (Cologne
and Düsseldorf), as well as government and administration (Berlin,
Bonn, and most state capitals). Dramatic social or economic crises
that generate debates about urban decline have not happened.
Thanks in part to effective urban governments, no German city has
come close to the near-collapse of American rustbelt cities during
the early 1980s, or the fiscal meltdown of New York City in the
1970s. Crime has been consistently lower and less violent, and the
American racial divide has no equivalent in German cities. East German
cities, while more unevenly developed, have been no less stable.
East Berlin was the dominant center, linked to the industrial
cities in the North (Rostock) and South (Leipzig, Halle, Dresden) by
a rather creaky infrastructure.