Oral Presentation Session - Invited Status Awarded
Invited by: Middle East Section
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Cities
Secondary Theme: Technology
Scholarship on infrastructure underlines how systems tend to become invisible when they function well. When they break down, however, they are easy to notice -- they become exposed. At times, the dysfunctionality of infrastructures represents how people’s expectations of modernity dissipate. Faltering infrastructures are constitutive of the global anxiety regarding humanity’s political, social, economic, and environmental future.
We believe that studying social life in the Middle East requires an examination of infrastructures, as social relations are constituted in uneven and explicative ways across such networks. In this panel, we will explore the occasions when infrastructures prove unreliable and inadequate, and study how these breakdowns can variously serve as moments of vulnerability, opportunity, or consolidation of power. Infrastructures, rather than being an abstract political terrain of struggle, are often the materialization of the politics of the state. Since infrastructures involve multiple government and private entities and populations with different expectations and interests, what are they ways in which they become critical for regulating and revealing whose imaginaries of the future become prioritized? How do infrastructures become exposed when the break down, especially in terms of the various inequalities they make known within the spaces they connect? What kinds of political work can such visibility of infrastructures do? Alternatively, what are the shortcomings of a paradigm of visibility, particularly in states where infrastructure has long been perceived as “failed”?