Accepted paper:

A highway on top of farm tracks: local agricultural movement and regional highway transit on Romania's Western border

Author:

Florin Faje (Babes-Bolyai University)

Paper short abstract:

My paper explores the tensions and difficulties of movement that farmers in Nădlac, West Romania, faced once a new highway cut across their lands and severed access to large swaths of their arable land as well as their mobilization to preserve their specific forms of travel along farm tracks.

Paper long abstract:

Over the last decade, the small town of Nădlac on Romania's border with Hungary, turned into a place of contention between local farmers and state agents, regarding the construction of the highway connecting Romania with Hungary. Life in Nădlac, the largest road border crossing between the two countries and a historical farming community with highly fertile lands, was dominated by the claims of the farmers seeking to preserve their farm tracks, and continuous access to around 60% of their land, and state agents and developers pushing forward to complete a new highway as fast and cheap as possible. Based on my recurrent fieldwork there since 2014, I explore the economic and social transformations brought about by the highway project, the emergence of a partly successful local mobilization and the clash between local/agricultural and commercial/regional forms of mobility. For the latter, I show that preserving and using farm roads is at once, an economic imperative, a form of mastering local geography and a continuous source of pride and belonging. From a local standpoint, the modern highway all but negates these possibilities. This is immediately visible in the way the farmers used the intimate knowledge of the terrain to lobby for the construction of two underpasses, that safeguarded their access to land, while radically altering the perception of their environment and their patterns of using roads.

panel P107
From paths to roads: the transformative capacities of roads on movement and relationships