(Re)constructing the BAM: Affective Networks of the (Post)Socialist Infrastructure
(University of Vienna)
Peter Schweitzer (University of Vienna)
Paper short abstract:
The Baikal-Amur Mainline, a late railroad socialist project, is undergoing technological modernization. The study of the reconstruction process illustrates the temporality of the BAM infrastructure as a network of actors involved in production and translation of memories, knowledge, and emotions.
Paper long abstract:
The Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) is a railway line built in the 1970s and 1980s in the northern areas of East Siberia and the Russian Far East. The construction of the BAM in the late socialist period was accompanied by communist propaganda, a mass population influx and the formation of new groups and identities. As result the railroad has become a largest technological and social engineering project, filled with the myths and promises of mobility, connectivity and modernization. BAM-2, a recently launched state program of technological modernization fueled by resource extraction interests is aimed at the construction of the once projected second track and renovation of stations. The reconstruction works engenders networks of actors - railroad organizations, extracting and construction companies, former builders of the BAM, local administrations and residents, as well as trains, tracks, stations, building machinery and financial flows. Public hope and expectations evoked by references to the glorified socialist construction project, contested distribution of funds and new jobs and varied perceptions of the railroad's role make the postsocialist BAM an affective infrastructure. The paper drawing on ethnographic data collected in the BAM communities seeks to contribute to the growing field of the anthropology of infrastructure (Harvey and Knox 2015, Collier 2004, Campregher, 2010). It addresses the process of co-construction of "hard" and "soft" infrastructures by studying reconfiguring networks of actors involved in the production and translation of memories, knowledge, and emotions at large-scale development projects in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia.
Revisiting railroads: sociality, mobility and infrastructure