Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Infrastructures and Social Complexity

A Companion, 1st Edition

Edited by Penelope Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen, Atsuro Morita


424 pages | 22 B/W Illus.

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Contemporary forms of infrastructural development herald alternative futures through their incorporation of digital technologies, mobile capital, international politics and the promises and fears of enhanced connectivity. In tandem with increasing concerns about climate change and the anthropocene, there is further an urgency around contemporary infrastructural provision: a concern about its fragility, and an awareness that these connective, relational systems significantly shape both local and planetary futures in ways that we need to understand more clearly. Offering a rich set of empirically detailed and conceptually sophisticated studies of infrastructural systems and experiments, present and past, contributors to this volume address both the transformative potential of infrastructural systems and their stasis. Covering infrastructural figures; their ontologies, epistemologies, classifications and politics, and spanning development, urban, energy, environmental and information infrastructures, the chapters explore both the promises and failures of infrastructure. Tracing the experimental histories of a wide range of infrastructures and documenting their variable outcomes, the volume offers a unique set of analytical perspectives on contemporary infrastructural complications. These studies bring a systematic empirical and analytical attention to human worlds as they intersect with more-than-human worlds, whether technological or biological.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Infrastructural Complications, (Penny Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen & Atsuro Morita)

Part I: Development Infrastructures

Introduction, (Penny Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen & Atsuro Morita)

2. Keyword: Infrastructure – How a Humble French Engineering Term Shaped the Modern World, (Ashley Carse)

3. Surveying the Future Perfect: Anthropology, Development and the Promise of Infrastructure, (Kregg Hetherington)

4. Containment and Disruption: The Illicit Economies of Infrastructural Investment, (Penny Harvey)

5. Infrastructure Reform in Indigenous Australia: From Mud to Mining to Military Empires, (Tess Lea)

6. Becoming a City: Infrastructural Fetishism and Scattered Urbanization in Vientiane, Laos, (Miki Namba)

Part II: Urban Infrastructures

Introduction, (Atsuro Morita, Casper Bruun Jensen & Penny Harvey)

7. On Pressure and the Politics of Urban Water Infrastructure, (Nikhil Anand)

8. Infrastructuring New Urban Common Worlds? On Material Politics, Civic Attachments and Partially Existing Wind Turbines, (Anders Blok)

9. Remediating Infrastructure: Tokyo’s Commuter Train Network and the New Autonomy, (Michael Fisch)

10. The Generic City: Examples from Jakarta, Indonesia and Maputo, Mozambique, (Morten Nielsen & AbdoulMaliq Simone)

11. Ecologies in Beta: The City as Infrastructure of Apprenticeships, (Alberto Corsín Jiménez & Adolfo Estalella)


Part III: Energy Infrastructures

Introduction, (Casper Bruun Jensen, Penny Harvey & Atsuro Morita)

12. Living with the Earth: More-than-Human Arrangements in Seismic Landscapes, (James Maguire & Brit Ross Winthereik)

13. Revolutionary Infrastructure, (Dominic Boyer)

14. Infrastructure and the Earth, (Andrew Barry)

15. Off the Grid: Infrastructure and Energy Beyond the Mains, (Jamie Cross)


Part IV: Environmental Infrastructures

Introduction , (Atsuro Morita, Casper Bruun Jensen & Penny Harvey)

16. River Basin: The Development of the Scientific Concept and Infrastructures in the Chao Phraya Delta, Thailand, (Atsuro Morita)

17. Multinatural Infrastructure and Phnom Penh Sewage, (Casper Bruun Jensen)

18. Burial and Resurrection in the Anthropocene: Infrastructures of Waste, (Myra Hird)

19. Evidence, Infrastructure and Worth, (Sandra Calkins and Richard Rottenburg)


Part V: Infrastructural Figures

Introduction, (Casper Bruun Jensen, Penny Harvey & Atsuro Morita)

20. When Infrastructures Fail: An Ethnographic Note in the Middle of an Aegean Crisis, (Sarah Green)

21. Infrastructure as Gesture, (Gisa Weszkalnys)

22. The Black List: On Infrastructural Indeterminacy and Its Reverberations, (Madeleine Reeves)

23. Infrastructural Inversion and Reflexivity: A "Postcolonial" Biodiversity Project in India, (Moe Nakazora)

24. Survivals as Infrastructure: 21st Century Struggles with Households and Family in Formal Computations, (Jane Guyer)

Part VI: Digital Infrastructures

Introduction, (Penny Harvey, Casper Bruun Jensen & Atsuro Morita)

25. Downscaling: From Global to Local in the Climate Knowledge Infrastructure, (Paul Edwards)

26. The Problem of Action: Infrastructure, Planning and the Informational Environment, (Hannah Knox)

27. Machinic Operations: Data Structuring, Healthcare and Governmentality, (Andrew Goffey)

28. Infrastructures in Name Only? Identifying Effects of Depth and Scale, (Adrian Mackenzie)

29. How Knowledge Infrastructures Learn, (Geoffrey C. Bowker)

About the Editors

Penny Harvey is Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, UK

Casper Bruun Jensen is Associate Professor/Senior Researcher at Osaka University, Japan

Atsuro Morita is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Japan

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General