Critical Perspective on Chinese Infrastructures–cfp

Below is a brief CFP for a panel being organized by a colleague (Leif Johnson, University of Kentucky Dept. of Geography) and myself (Goeun Lee, University of Kentucky Dept. of Anthropology), for the upcoming Association for Asian Studies conference in Hong Kong, June 2020. We are looking for contributions from geographers and anthropologists doing research on or around topics including the construction, maintenance, planning, or discourse surrounding Chinese infrastructure, particularly within China.

Due to the structure of the AAS’ panel organization system, the deadline for panel proposals is quite soon, and we would hope to be able to have a clear idea of who will be participating by October 25th, which will give us time to submit requests for financial support for participants who need it, and draft a fleshed-out proposal to submit to AAS by the 30th of October. If you are interested, even with doubts about timing or funding, please get back to us as soon as possible!

Critical Perspectives on Chinese Infrastructures: A Panel for AAS in Asia 2020
(Hong Kong, June 22-24)

Alongside other recent work that has attempted to bring the broader “infrastructure turn” in the social sciences into deeper contact with work in China studies (see Oakes 2019), this session hopes to bring together scholars with a variety of critical perspectives on Chinese infrastructures, from their design,  construction, and maintenance, to everyday encounters with infrastructure as form, to the kinds of mobility facilitated and necessitated by various infrastructure projects. If infrastructure is essentially what enables things to move (Larkin 2013), what kinds of ‘mobility narratives’ are also mediated by social practices of infrastructures? As people come into contact with systems that move things and people in multiple directions, how is everyday life shaped by the modernist promises (Anand, Gupta, and Appel 2018) and nationalist visions (Barker 2005) of infrastructure in the Chinese context? If we can see infrastructure as media, what stories are mediated by it in the context of China as the “paradigmatic infrastructural state” (Bach 2016)?  Our own research, on urban upgrading in the context of household waste-source separation  in urban residential blocks (Lee) and the labor employed in the construction and maintenance of communications infrastructure (Johnson), draws on feminist and critical theories to understand the ways in which these urban infrastructures are built and maintained, and we look forward to contextualizing our own projects with other scholars’ recent and ongoing work. In this light, we invite analyses on discourses and practices of planning and design, building and construction, and operation and maintenance of Chinese infrastructures of the 20th and 21st centuries, to think with Chinese narratives of mobility through infrastructures.

If you are interested in participating or have any questions, please send an abstract or brief note to us at and prior to 10/25/2019.

Cited Works

Anand, Nikhil, Akhil Gupta, and Hannah Appel. 2018. The Promise of Infrastructure. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bach, Jonathan. 2016. “China’s Infrastructural Fix.”  limn

Barker, Joshua. 2005. “Engineers and Political Dreams: Indonesia in the Satellite Age.”  Current Anthropology 46 (5):703.

Larkin, Brian. 2013. “The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure.”  Annual Review of Anthropology 42:327.

Oakes, Tim. “China Made: Infrastructural Thinking in a Chinese Register.” Made in China 4, no. 2 (June 2019).

Thank you for your consideration,

Goeun Lee and Leif Johnson
PhD candidates in Anthropology and Geography,
University of Kentucky

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