The Promise of Infrastructure

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 16 illustrations Published: August 2018

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Geography, Science and Technology Studies

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.

A School for Advanced Research Advanced Seminar

Contributors. Nikhil Anand, Hannah Appel, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Dominic Boyer, Akhil Gupta, Penny Harvey, Brian Larkin, Christina Schwenkel, Antina von Schnitzler


“Everyday infrastructures are very good to think with. They are materially, socially, and symbolically dense; they are often banal, everyday, and taken for granted; yet they are the bearers of modernity, promising progress, development, democracy, an easier life, safety, security, and much else. The Promise of Infrastructure makes all of this brilliantly clear and vivid, at once capacious in its reach and theoretically innovative in its disposition. This book shows powerfully how infrastructures are not simply rich ethnographic objects but apparatuses of neoliberal rule. A must-read." — Michael Watts, Class of ’63 Professor, University of California, Berkeley


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nikhil Anand is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Akhil Gupta is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Hannah Appel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction: Temporality, Politics, and the Promise of Infrastructure / Hannah Appel, Nikhil Anand, and Akhil Gupta  1
Part I. Time
1. Infrastructural Time / Hannah Appel  41
2. The Future in Ruins: Thoughts on the Temporality of Infrastructure / Akhil Gupta  62
3. Infrastructures in and out of Time: The Promise of Roads in Contemporary Peru / Penny Harvey  80
4. The Current Never Stops: Intimacies of Energy Infrastructure in Vietnam / Christina Schwenkel  102
Part II. Politics
5. Infrastructure, Apartheid Technopolitics, and Temporalities of "Transition" / Antina von Schnitzler  133
6. A Public Matter: Water, Hydraulics, Biopolitics / Nikhil Anand  155
Part III.
7. Promising Forms: The Political Aesthetics of Infrastructure / Brian Larkin  175
8. Sustainable Knowledge Infrastructures / Geoffrey C. Bowker  203
9. Infrastructure, Potential Energy, Revolution / Dominic Boyer  223
Contributors  245
Index  249
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0018-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0003-7
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