Promising pipelines and hydrocarbon nationalism

The sociality of unbuilt infrastructure in indigenous Siberia

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Gertjan Plets Cultural History

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By analysing how shamanist nomads who previously opposed large infrastructure works have suddenly become enchanted by the prospect of the construction of a large gas pipeline, this paper ethnographically investigates how technology and infrastructure become perceived as promising by ordinary people on the ground in post‐Soviet Siberia. Drawing attention to the discursive impact of large gas corporations and the role of deeply embedded Soviet conceptions of modernity in filling pipelines with cultural meaning, this paper provides unique insights into the highly localised engagements with infrastructure. As such, this paper contributes to the anthropology of Russia, where infrastructure has only recently received academic attention. It also corresponds to the ‘infrastructural turn’ in anthropology by studying the social, cultural and material conditions ensuring that infrastructure becomes perceived as promising. Furthermore, this paper explores the significant impact of ancillary infrastructures connected to a construction project in entangling people with technology and infrastructure.

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