This panel approaches environmental infrastructures as collaborative and distributed ventures that involve specific modes of intimacy and co-presence, both social and material. Our aim is to explore the emergent ontologies and politics that such infrastructural systems entail
Across the world, infrastructural projects are undertaken to reconfigure the social and material conditions of life in response to changing and uncertain environmental circumstances. These projects include river and coastal defence systems, energy and water systems, global circulations for the disposal and re-use of waste, and the on-going and unresolved negotiation of the tension between sustaining environmental resources and sustaining economic growth. All such undertakings also involve regulatory, technical and administrative arrangements that attempt to specify and secure the ways in which our infrastructures emerge and develop. Ethnographic research has begun to document in some detail the uneven effects of such projects. Researchers are also attending to the ways in which ambitions to improve specific socio-material conditions often generate unforeseen effects, including threats to the lifeworlds of people whose modes of accommodation to precarious environmental conditions fail to match up to the new infrastructural dreams and schemes. These uncertain effects are not external to infrastructural forms, but are integral to the possibilities that such infrastructures offer in their particular material re-configurations of social worlds. This panel will focus on the complex social and material relations that infrastructures entail, attending to the specific modes of intimacy and co-presence that emerge in and through particular infrastructural configurations. This ethnographic interrogation proposes a way to explore the emergent ontologies and politics of infrastructural systems.