Roads matter to people. This claim is central to the work of Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox, who in this book use the example of highway building in South America to explore what large public infrastructural projects can tell us about contemporary state formation, social relations, and emerging political economies. Roads focuses on two main sites: the interoceanic highway currently under construction between Brazil and Peru, a major public/private collaboration that is being realized within new, internationally ratified regulatory standards; and a recently completed one-hundred-kilometer stretch of highway between Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, and a small town called Nauta, one of the earliest colonial settlements in the Amazon. The Iquitos-Nauta highway is one of the most expensive roads per kilometer on the planet. Combining ethnographic and historical research, Harvey and Knox shed light on the work of engineers and scientists, bureaucrats and construction company officials. They describe how local populations anticipated each of the road projects, even getting deeply involved in questions of exact routing as worries arose that the road would benefit some more than others. Connectivity was a key recurring theme as people imagined the prosperity that will come by being connected to other parts of the country and with other parts of the world. Sweeping in scope and conceptually ambitious, Roads tells a story of global flows of money, goods, and people—and of attempts to stabilize inherently unstable physical and social environments.
With its infamously packed cars and disciplined commuters, Tokyo’s commuter train network is one of the most complex technical infrastructures on Earth. In An Anthropology of the Machine, Michael Fisch provides a nuanced perspective on how Tokyo’s commuter train network embodies the lived realities of technology in our modern world. Drawing on his fine-grained knowledge of transportation, work, and everyday life in Tokyo, Fisch shows how fitting into a system that operates on the extreme edge of sustainability can take a physical and emotional toll on a community while also creating a collective way of life—one with unique limitations and possibilities. An Anthropology of the Machine is a creative ethnographic study of the culture, history, and experience of commuting in Tokyo. At the same time, it is a theoretically ambitious attempt to think through our very relationship with technology and our possible ecological futures. Fisch provides an unblinking glimpse into what it might be like to inhabit a future in which more and more of our infrastructure—and the planet itself—will have to operate beyond capacity to accommodate our ever-growing population.
From U.S.-Mexico border walls to Flint's poisoned pipes, there is a new urgency to the politics of infrastructure. Roads, electricity lines, water pipes, and oil installations promise to distribute the resources necessary for everyday life. Yet an attention to their ongoing processes also reveals how infrastructures are made with fragile and often violent relations among people, materials, and institutions. While infrastructures promise modernity and development, their breakdowns and absences reveal the underbelly of progress, liberal equality, and economic growth. This tension, between aspiration and failure, makes infrastructure a productive location for social theory. Contributing to the everyday lives of infrastructure across four continents, some of the leading anthropologists of infrastructure demonstrate in The Promise of Infrastructure how these more-than-human assemblages made over more-than-human lifetimes offer new opportunities to theorize time, politics, and promise in the contemporary moment. Contributors Nikhil Anand, Hannah Appel, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Dominic Boyer, Akhil Gupta, Penny Harvey, Brian Larkin, Christina Schwenkel, Antina von Schnitzler
The social sciences have in recent decades forgotten that life is constituted as much through practices of detachment as through relating and engaging. This diagnosis forms the starting point of this interdisciplinary volume, which questions one of the most fundamental tenets of social theoryby focusing on detachment, an important but neglected aspect of social life. Ideas of detachment have come under critical fire in a range of disciplinary contexts, including in relation to discussions of scientific method, international development and western knowledge more generally.Correspondingly, the "cultural turn" has coincided with the valorisation of connection, relationship and engagement as analytic frameworks for thinking about ethics and knowledge production in the humanities and social sciences. These theoretical developments relate to broader social, cultural andeconomic shifts. "Engagement" has become a key word in public life, from politics, the media, and policy making, through to art and science, as the role of detached "experts" is reconfigured and questioned. Going against the grain of this turn to "engagement", this book challenges the relational basis of socialtheory and correspondingly brings to light the productive aspects of disconnection, distance and detachment. Rather than treating detachment simply as the moral inversion of compassion and engagement, the volume brings together empirical studies and theoretical comments by leading anthropologists,sociologists, and science studies scholars. Taken together these illustrate the range of contexts within which distance and disconnection can offer meaningful frameworks for action. Positioned at the cutting edge of social theory, this landmark volume will be widely read by students and academicsacross the social sciences and humanities.