Accepted paper:

Infrastructures and Invisibility: the techno-politics of heterogeneous zones


Maximilian Mayer (Tongji University)

Paper short abstract:

Global infrastructures coproduce heterogeneous zones; exploring their invisibility through an STS/IR, this paper asks how we might conceptualize local experiences of domination and resistance, and structural aspects of global order emerging at the nexus of infrastructures and invisibility.

Paper long abstract:

Global infrastructures require and coproduce heterogeneous zones. What makes zones especially interesting for research at the intersection of STS /International Relations is their hidden character. On the one hand, it is routinely overseen how critical their existence is for exercising technologically mediated power by militaries, corporations, NGOs, and UN agencies. While many zones might be located in remote spots, they are highly connected with centers of calculation and/ or nodal points for the exercise of power through large strategic weapon systems. On the other hand, few if any theoretical approaches have addressed the forms infrastructural domination, which are imposed on inhabitants of zones, as structural feature of transnational affairs. For instance, regardless whether large military bases, island stations for global monitoring systems, (secretly run) air strips, nuclear testing areas, or mineral extraction zones, jurisdictions of exemption guarantee the zone personal to be exempted from laws including environmental, labor, or security regulations valid externally. Based on various empirical examples, and attempting to interweave STS, International Relations and global governance literature, this paper asks the following questions: a) Which strategies of visualization, representation and knowledge production are employed by activist living in zones to resist the both forms of domination and the reproduction of ignorance? b) How are zones reproduced and reified through framings or ignorance within academic discourses and broader public perceptions? c) How can we conceptualize the interaction of local subjectivities and global order emerging from interrogating the nexus of infrastructures and invisibility?

panel T085
Infrastructures, subjects, politics