SIEF2017 13th Congress: Göttingen, Germany
26-30 March 2017

(Sui03)
Clashing scales of infrastructural development
Location KWZ 0.607
Date and Start Time 28 March, 2017 at 10:45
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo) email
  • Aleksandar Boskovic (Institute of Social Sciences) email

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Short Abstract

In the contemporary "overheated", neoliberal, deregulated world, large-scale infrastructural developments often lead to controversy in the localities directly affected, and this panel explores these conflicts through the lens of "clashing scales", enabling a fresh look at "ways of dwelling".

Long Abstract

Deregulated markets, instantaneous communication and vastly reduced transportation costs are among the factors that stimulate accelerated global change and investments in infrastructure. This panel will explore local responses to large-scale infrastructural developments through the analytical lens of clashing scales. Although anthropologists have always studied tensions and conflicts between local concerns and large-scale projects, clashing scales remain to be elaborated analytically. Investors and the politicians supporting them tend to take a large-scale approach to costs, benefits and circumstances, while the people directly affected by infrastructural developments are concerned, rather, with their livelihood and the sustainability of their community. In the deregulated, neoliberal world, there is a general tendency towards scaling up economic activities, in a bid to increase profits and enhance competitiveness. In this panel, we wish to explore implications, perceptions and local responses to the clashing scales resulting from community concerns being confronted with large-scale developments or the prospect thereof. Papers may focus on ports, mines, roads, housing estates, tourist facilities or other large-scale infrastructural developments, seen through the lens of clashing scales with a main focus on 'ways of dwelling' where the developments are taking place.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Clashing capitalisms: negotiating oil zones in Niger and Uganda

Authors: Annika Witte (Georg-August-University)  email
Jannik Schritt (Institut für Ethnologie)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at reactions by communities affected by large-scale oil-related infrastructural developments in Uganda and Niger through the lens of “clashing scales”. We analyze the conflicts that evolved around the standardizing processes of oil zones as a form of clashing capitalisms.

Long Abstract

This paper analyzes reactions by communities affected by large-scale oil-related infrastructural developments in Uganda and Niger through the lens of "clashing scales". Comparing our cases we show how extractive communities engaged the oil companies in negotiations over their access to the industry. We show how the oil companies' way of doing business through disentanglement - the work to detach them from the wider environments within which they operate - was opposed by forces in the extracting countries that all aim in one way or the other at creating linkages with the oil industry. We look at how actors negotiated standardizing processes of a technological zone around the oil. In Niger, all kind of actors contested inequality in or even the lack of standards in the Chinese oil industry. In Uganda, by contrast, local entrepreneurs objected to the multinational oil companies' insistence on international health and safety standards. The tensions are not following a universal script of local communities vs. big oil but rather are situated in large-scale processes of different capitalisms. Based on our cases, we argue that considering clashing capitalisms as an element of clashing scales, offers a fruitful perspective to understand how new infrastructural developments are negotiated at the formative moment of new oil zones.

Planning profit, simulating socialism: housing in Novi Jelkovec

Author: Tamara Buble  email

Short Abstract

My presentation focuses on the relationship between the planning politics, urban policies and the (im)possibilities of harmonical dwelling. Novi Jelkovec, Zagreb's large-scale subsidized housing estate built in 2009. is being discussed as a case-study.

Long Abstract

Novi Jelkovec is one of the first planned state-funded (later city-funded) residential housing development in Zagreb built after the fall of socialism. Its large scale, public funding and allegedly socially oriented policy resemble massive housing projects of the previous regime. However, the resemblance stays on surface as the project tried but failed in delivering equal living conditions. Its urban policy and planning documents reveal ad-hoc developed strategies and decisions, state/city interventions aimed for a fast profit in the time of housing market crisis and and populist attempts of the city authorities to gain more votes on local elections. Despite the planners' efforts to even out spatial and social inequalities through the creation of socially mixed community, the outcome is socially divided neighbourhood where the large part of the community is marginalized towards the whole, while the neighbourhood itself rates as a marginalized towards the city, thus repeating the center-periphey pattern. Its inhabitants' home-making practices result in both the attempts of the creation of (an image) of the desirable middle-class place in the benefit for the neighbourhood as whole, and as the deepening of the divide by excluding the internal Others from the social infrastructure. I argue that such practices can be viewed as a survival strategy for compating uneven development and aimed for improvement of the neighbourhood status. They arise from the urban rescaling process where the neighborhoods are conceptualized as bounded delineated spatial units rather than an ouvre and result in creating of more social and physical inequalities.

Vancouver [de]constructed: a contested terrain between Chinese investment, renovicted houses, and un-settling futures

Author: Mascha Gugganig (Technical University Munich)  email

Short Abstract

This talk is concerned with dwelling practices in a city where construction sites have become omnipresent, in part due to Chinese real estate investment. I consider the construction site as platform for current debates, and as monument of unresolved issues and un-settling concerns in the future.

Long Abstract

For some years, Vancouver has been among the most expensive cities worldwide, not least due to its housing market. Canada's open immigration policy, Vancouver's history of Asian immigrants, and the city's location have attracted a new Chinese elite frantically buying up real estate, which has contributed to house prices rising 30% within a year. Further, lax housing and tenant regulations have led to the demolition of a thousand houses annually, and of "renovicting" tenants, with younger generations increasingly leaving the city. As a result, there has been an omnipresence of construction sites across the city, often turning into cheaply manufactured mansion-style houses that either remain empty or circulate within a relatively enclosed market for wealthy elites from abroad. Long-term Vancouverites have held politicians accountable to this trend, who respond with hesitation, and fear nourishing anew a racism against Chinese that was present in the early 20th century in British Columbia. In this talk, I engage anthropological literature on infrastructure, and ask what it means to dwell in a city where construction sites have become both ephemeral and a permanent presence. More specifically, I propose looking at construction sites as monuments of unresolved (also colonial) issues in the past, a platform for political debates at present, and as un-settling "ruins of the future" (see Howe et al. 2015). With reference to tenants' accounts and personal experiences, I present dwelling strategies in and against such clashing scales of infrastructural development, and juxtapose them to a global trend of Chinese investment in foreign cities.

How "Poland entered Europe": motorway as a space of neoliberlism

Author: Waldemar Kuligowski (Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

In last decade Poland becomes a place of a giant infrastructural construction projects. One of them was a construction of A2 motorway. On the one hand we can analyze it in a term of “modernization through the motorway” but on the another hand as a neoliberal “big trauma” for local communities.

Long Abstract

At the beginning of the 21st century Poland was a place of a giant infrastructural construction projects. One of them was a construction of A2 motorway, connecting Poznań and Warsaw with Polish-German border. It was a first private motorway in Poland and also the biggest European infrastructural project, realized in public-private partnership system. December 1st 2011 when the last section of A2 was opened could be consider as one of crucial event of politic-economic transformation.

Obviously, the economic and cultural meanings of A2 are more multidimensional. I would like to focus on two levels: (1) official discourse created by investors and government, defining motorway in terms of economic and social development and definitive "the end" of Polish modernization; (2) answers of local communities, living and working along the new motorway. On the first level the construction of A2 could be seen as a Poland's final stage in joining a united Europe. It was also supposed to provide a strong impetus for the economic and social development of the regions where the motorway was being built. In this context I used the term "modernization through the motorway". On the second level I observed strong disappointment and sense of exclusion from participation in promised development and its benefits. Gathered data support the David Harvey's opinion: "The fundamental mission of neoliberal-state is to create a 'good business climate' (…). Public-private partnership are favored in which public sector bears all of the risk and the corporate sector reaps all of the profit".

Polish free/highways: clash of policy and ideology of modernization with social practices

Author: Agata Stanisz (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper it will be consider the following: a. the phenomenon of local grassroots lobbies connected with freeway and highway construction in contemporary Poland; b. the clash of policies and ideologies of modernization through infrastructural development from two perspectives – above and below.

Long Abstract

This paper concerns the processes of modernization connected with the development of road infrastructure in contemporary Poland. These processes will be perceived from the grassroots perspective. I propose an anthropological analysis based on the ethnographic multisite research that have been conducting since 2013 as part of the National Science Centre project "Moving modernizations. Influence of motorway A2 on local cultural landscapes". The analysis is also based on a more extensive, but still pilot, study on another recent road investment in Poland and its impact on the local economic strategies. Both projects are carried out in the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology AMU in Poznan.

I would like to show how social practices, including grassroots lobbies and various forms of resistance strategies, contribute to on-going modifications of investments and construction plans. I will base my analysis on a few examples: the struggle for slip roads on the A2 motorway, construction of the interconnection between S3 freeway and a small housing developments, changing the trajectory of S6 freeway, redesigning and extension of S8 freeway, and the struggle for S11 freeway instead of a standard bypass road. In other words, the main goal of this paper is to show what happens when ideologies and policies from above and from below clash or what local socio-cultural responses to major infrastructural investments are. Consequently, not only ideology and policy of modernization in the context of peripheral communities will be considered, but also the practical dimension of their everyday reality.

When the future looked old: new social-cultural movements, and the re-scaling of an infrastructure in "Paradise" (Constance, 1960s-80s)

Author: Johannes Mueske (Deutsches Museum)  email

Short Abstract

The ethnography investigates the quarrel about the “Paradise,” a neighborhood in Constance which has been the scene of successful protests against an over-dimensioned Autobahn. The conflict is a mirror of competing ideas about politics, the future of the environment, and dwelling in the city.

Long Abstract

Since the 1950s, in Germany economic growth and increasing motorization seemed to call for new large-scale infrastructure projects, i.e.: motorways, that would connect every city and town to the future. However, the high-flying plans sometimes were grounded by citizens who had differing plans for their cities. My paper presents a case study on the history of an infrastructure project in Constance (1960s-80s). Constance, a middle-sized city in the very southern periphery of Germany, was in need of a bypass road and second bridge over the Rhine to ease traffic problems. However, as will be outlined in the first chapter, protests came up in the 1970s and -80s, when national and provincial politics presented plans for a 6-lane Autobahn: The motorway would not only injure a nearby local leisure forest, but ignored that it would also cut through a city quarter, the "Paradise." Second, it will be asked for the actors and their conflicting goals and "modernities," e.g., a new understanding of political processes among the citizens' initiatives vs. classic top-down approaches of the local parliament. Third, it will be proposed to rather understand the "new social movements" as cultural endeavors. The movements were not driven by social concerns or the demand for political representation, but were initiated by middle class academic and creative milieux that wanted to elevate the quality of living, preserve heritages, and claimed direct political participation. My study is part of an ongoing research on political competition and it is based on archival work and qualitative interviews.

Optimism as revenge and disgust in urban revitalisation

Author: Maree Pardy (Deakin University)  email

Short Abstract

Large infrastructure and urban programs can be made intelligible through state and market desire, and the ensuing circulation of emotion across sites and scales of such development. The paper focuses on how emotion circulates through discourse, programs and responses in an Australian suburb.

Long Abstract

This paper suggests that large infrastructure and urban renewal programs are intelligible in affective dispositions of the state and market and the ensuing circulation of emotion across scales and sites of such development. The focus is on the circulation of emotion through 'urban-renewal discourse, programs and responses in a suburb in Australia. Urban renewal and road infrastructure are considered here through state sponsored, but market-led remediation. The tenor of their planning and implementation orchestrate and reflect an ambience or what Raymond Williams called a 'structure of feeling' (Williams, 1977).

As advanced capitalism fluctuates in the face of large scale de-industrialisation, social economies increasingly turn to roads and real estate (re)development to drive growth. In this precarious context, urban renewal is optimistically cast as a strategy for happy futures. This optimism is however paradoxically entwined with a host of gloomier emotions, in particular the entanglement of revenge, disgust and optimism in the renewal of one Melbourne suburb. It is argued that the optimistic attachment to urban redevelopment by local and state government, and by those who are charged with its design and implementation, is an optimism that depends on revenge and disgust to sustain it.

The study explores tensions between policy responses to the needs and aspirations of existing inhabitants; and the imperative to imagine urban futures based on new money, increased commercial investment, new inhabitants. Considering political emotions, public feelings, the entanglement here of revenge, disgust and optimism, the paper also raises questions about deploying emotion and affect methodologically.

Mining suburbs for sustainable urbanism: an ethnography of suburban redesign in the American West

Author: Rachel Heiman (The New School)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on a massive master-planned TOD community in the U.S. first developed by a mining company and now by a global hedge fund. It theorizes tensions over sustainable design at the intersection of corporate concerns, local politics, infrastructural maintenance, and regional culture.

Long Abstract

There has been a growing literature on architecture, planning, and policy efforts to rethink sprawling, automobile suburbs amid volatile economic conditions, climate change, and carbon concerns. Yet here has been little ethnographic research in the United States that explores the transformation of sedimented ideals of suburban dwelling as people's everyday routines and familiar spaces shift amid efforts to redesign and retrofit the infrastructural and aesthetic landscape of American suburbia. This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork in a 4,000-acre, 20,000-unit master-planned community under construction in the American West by a subsidiary of one the largest mining companies in the world, whose remaining assets in the project were recently sold to a global hedge fund. Now 13 years into an anticipated 25-year build out on reclaimed land once used for mining activities, the suburb in which the project is located is now on the list of fastest growing cities in the United States and is experiencing political tensions over the influence of the project's design on the broader city. Designed by a California-based firm known for environmentally friendly, transit-oriented New Urbanism projects, with an award-winning advanced storm water retention system and housing options that enable higher densities, the project's location in the state of Utah—where environmental skepticism looms large and the Smart Growth Plan is for "voluntary, locally-implemented, market-based solutions"—provides fertile ground on which to explore multi-scalar tensions over sustainable development at the intersection of neoliberal governance, corporate social responsibility, shareholder value, local politics, infrastructural maintenance, and regional culture.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.