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Building promises: how international, state and local actors collaborate on public construction projects in non-democratic environments 
Jeanne Féaux de la Croix (University of Bern)
Katiana Le Mentec (CNRS)
Start time:
2 August, 2014 at
Time zone: Europe/Tallinn
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

We compare large public construction projects in non-democratic contexts. How do international business, development and government actors collaborate in building projects that promise a better future for citizens? And: what are citizens' roles in and reactions to such projects?

Long Abstract:

This panel investigates large public construction projects such as the Olympic infrastructure of Sochi (Russia), the Three Gorges Dam (China) or new cityscapes in the Gulf. These projects are realized by non-democratic governments collaborating with international development organizations and construction companies to heighten government authority and avoid political revolutionary change. Such large projects can garner public support of citizens who are promised a bright future, or fail to do so, and thereby catalyze social movements demanding political change, as in the recent protests on the urban development plan for Istanbul's Gezi Park.

We invite papers that explore the interactions and links between international, state and local actors through concrete case studies ranging from nuclear power plants to highways and capital cities. We particularly encourage submissions of ethnographic cases examining collaborations as 'sticky engagements' (Tsing 2005) between different kinds of actors, scales and leading motives. Papers may discuss current public construction projects or achieved ones, such as Soviet cities, and in this case may consider their memory and legacies.

The comparative framework of the panel intends to explore two theoretical questions:

1 - What can we learn about changes since the end of the Cold War, in governmental, developmental and market dynamics around public building projects and in their interaction with citizens in non-democratic contexts?

2 - How do public building projects in non-democratic context, allow us to rethink ideas and entities called 'development', 'state' and 'the market' as they mesh in new assemblages (Ong and Collier 2005)?

Accepted papers:

Session 1