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Infrastructures of progress and dispossession

Collective responses to shrinking water access among farmers in Arequipa, Peru

Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen

This article examines what economic growth and state versions of progress have done to small and medium-scale farmers in an urban setting, in Arequipa in southern Peru. The general reorganization of production, resources, and labor in the Peruvian economy has generated a discursive move to reposition small and medium-scale farmers as backward. This article analyzes how farmers struggle to find their place within a neoliberal urban ecology where different conceptions of what constitutes progress in contemporary Peru influence the landscape. Using an analytical lens that takes material and organizational infrastructures and practices into account, and situates these in specific historical processes, the article argues that farmers within the urban landscape of Arequipa struggle to reclaim land and water, and reassert a status that they experience to be losing. Such a historical focus on material and organizational infrastructural arrangements, it is argued, can open up for understanding how local and beyond-local processes tangle in complex ways and are productive of new subjectivities; how relations are reconfigured in neoliberal landscapes of progress and dispossession. Such an approach makes evident how state and nonstate actors invest affects, interests, and desires differently within a given landscape.

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Andrey Vozyanov

Crises in urban electric transport infrastructure of Eastern and Southeastern Europe present not only a fruitful subject for historical, ethnographic, and sociological inquiry, but also contribute to two intersecting knowledge fields. First, to the multidisciplinary constellation of studies dedicated to failures of sociotechnical systems that I will refer to as disaster and crisis studies. And second, to social studies of urban transit in the former Socialist Bloc, a subfield within broader mobility and transport studies. In this text I will review the state of both these fields and then proceed to conceptualize the intersections between them, proposing historical anthropology as an integration tool. In the process I will occasionally refer to my fieldwork in Donbas, Ukraine, from 2011 to 2013, and eastern Romania since 2015.

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Alla Bolotova, Anastassia Karaseva and Valeria Vasilyeva

This article explores how the mobility of young people influences their sense of place in different parts of the Russian Arctic. In globalization studies increasing mobility has often been set in opposition to belonging to place, and interpreted as diminishing local connections and ties. Recent studies show that the role of mobility in shaping a sense of place is more complex. The Russian Arctic is often considered a remote, hard-to-access area, despite the fact that local residents have always been very mobile. We compare three case studies from across the Russian Arctic—namely, the Central Murmansk region, the Central Kolyma, and Eastern Taimyr—showing how mobility shapes differently young residents’ sense of place. These regions have a different population structure (urban / rural, polyethnic / monoethnic) and different transportation infrastructure, thus providing a good ground for comparing the relationships between mobility and a sense of place in the Russian Arctic.

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“Where Do You Get Fish?”

Practices of Individual Supplies in Yamal as an Indicator of Social Processes

Elena Liarskaya

While there have long been communities in the Arctic where natives and incomers live together, many anthropological works on the region focus either on the natives or on the incomers exclusively. This article based on field data collected in the three points of the Yamal (Iar-Sale, Salekhard, and Salemal) where natives and incomers have long lived together, shows how this default distinction often employed by researchers and local authorities works differently in actual everyday practices of mixed communities. The author describes the practices aimed at compensating for the infrastructural deficits and insufficient supplies in the Yamal through the use of social networks to acquire necessary food and goods. The analysis shows that mixed communities of Yamal are more complex than previously thought and that the dichotomy of “incomers/ natives” is not adequate to describe them.

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The War of Legs

Transport and Infrastructure in the East African Campaign of World War I

Michael Pesek

This article describes the little-known history of military labor and transport during the East African campaign of World War I. Based on sources from German, Belgian, and British archives and publications, it considers the issue of military transport and supply in the thick of war. Traditional histories of World War I tend to be those of battles, but what follows is a history of roads and footpaths. More than a million Africans served as porters for the troops. Many paid with their lives. The organization of military labor was a huge task for the colonial and military bureaucracies for which they were hardly prepared. However, the need to organize military transport eventually initiated a process of modernization of the colonial state in the Belgian Congo and British East Africa. This process was not without backlash or failure. The Germans lost their well-developed military transport infrastructure during the Allied offensive of 1916. The British and Belgians went to war with the question of transport unresolved. They were unable to recruit enough Africans for military labor, a situation made worse by failures in the supplies by porters of food and medical care. One of the main factors that contributed to the success of German forces was the Allies' failure in the “war of legs.”

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Temporality of Movements in the North

Pragmatic Use of Infrastructure and Reflexive Mobility of Evenki and Dolgan Hunters, Reindeer Herders, and Fishers

Vladimir N. Davydov

This article addresses the problem of temporality and its potential use in mobility studies by providing examples from the author’s recent fieldwork among Evenkis and Dolgans. It examines the temporal dimension of hunters’, reindeer herders’, and fishers’ movements, and discusses the pragmatic use by local people, in the context of their mobility, of a variety of infrastructures and objects that were introduced to the landscape during the last century. It introduces the concept of points of constant return for ways of relating to places of intensive use beyond the binary opposition of settlements and the surrounding landscape. This article suggests analyzing movements in a broader context that includes not just their starting and final destinations but the relations of different locations in a set of movements of multiple actors and analyzes them as results of both reflexive and creative processes that lead to transformations of material objects and the landscape.

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Public Policy or Popular Demand?

Why Californians Shifted from Trains to Autos (and Not Buses), 1910-1941

Gregory Thompson

This essay examines the transition from a rail-based intercity transportation system in California in 1910 to a road/private auto-based system thirty years later, with hypotheses that the transition could be explained by either corporate and state decisions for supplying infrastructure or by public demand. The essay examines trends of automobile ownership, road investment, bus organization and service provision, intercity passenger rail service provision, and intercity rail revenues, both within California and to and from California in each of the three decades. It concludes that public preference for private automobility explains most of the transition but that unserved demand remained for fast passenger train service between the state's large metropolitan areas. Failure to serve that demand derived from California's legacy of popular disdain for the private railroad industry.

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New Horizons for Sustainable Architecture

Hydrological Design for the Ecologically Responsive City

Brook Muller

In this article, I explore conceptual strategies encouraging an ecologically responsive, water-centric approach to architectural design, such that design interventions become nature/culture hybrids connecting urban dwellers to larger hydrological conditions. I consider the notion of horizons as one mechanism for working out a trajectory for sustainable architecture, one that highlights experiential and environmental concerns simultaneously. In a conceptual shift, theorist David Leatherbarrow’s treatment of “three architectural horizons” (the equipmental—the objects of one’s immediate setting; the practical—the enclosure of a building; and the environmental— what lies beyond) are reshuffled: the practical expands to the watershed (the bioregion as common dwelling place) while environmental processes couple with the equipment of buildings, such that architectures deliver net positive watershed impact.

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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.

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Fuels and Flows

Rethinking Histories of Transport and Mobility through Energy

Victor Seow

Despite obvious links, the relationship between transport and energy remains generally understudied among historians of transport. By briefly examining the ways in which energy resources and energy flows have intersected with transport patterns, transport costs, and transport technology, this thought piece makes a case for bringing considerations of energy into our writing of transport histories. It goes on to argue that a focus on energy and its movement also offers new insights and objects of study to those with broader interests in questions of mobility, for in tracing energy's pathways, we can better see how social, political, and environmental phenomena of varying scales have been constituted and connected in motion.