Heterogeneous Infrastructures in the Global South

In the last decade, the Global South has seen large-scale investments in infrastructures. This revival of modern infrastructures in the Global South has been accompanied with an “infrastructural turn” in social science research (Anand et al. 2018, Dodson 2017), and in particular in human geography. Scholars have argued that (large-scale) infrastructures gained new importance as formative instruments of regional planning (Schindler & Kanai 2021). The expansion of megaprojects such as dams, ports, railway lines or corridors (Sum 2019, Wiig & Silver 2019) goes hand in hand with less unusual infrastructure expansions such as rural and urban electricity and water supply (Rest 2018) or digital infrastructures (Ouma et al. 2019). These new infrastructures shall better position regions of the global south in global competition, which (at least discursively) legitimizes besides private especially public investments (Bersaglio et al. 2020, Dannenberg et al 2018, Klagge & Nweke-Eze 2020). In this context, the northern-derived, ‘modern infrastructure ideal’ (Graham and Marvin 2001) often continues to inform policies and practices, shaping ideas of what infrastructure is and how it should look like and function. However, various studies have identified ongoing economic and ecological challenges associated with modern infrastructure (Monstadt & Schramm 2017, Truelove & Cornea 2021). More broadly, there continue to be fundamental questions over whether modernization makes sense as a framework for development (Murphy 2008). Taking up these debates, concepts of incremental (Silver 2014), mundane (Guma 2020) or heterogeneous infrastructures (Lawhon et al. 2018) offer new ways of thinking differently about, and doing research on, infrastructures.

This session aims to contribute to these debates and enhance our understanding of the multiple, and dynamic transformations of infrastructures in the global south. We invite papers that study “heterogeneous infrastructure configurations” (Lawhon et al. 2018) in themes such as, but not limited to: