Accepted Paper:

Agents in the (infra)structure: boundaries and limits of imaginary and virtual worlds  
Marie Heřmanová (Czech Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

Based on a fieldwork in the south of Mexico, the paper explores how young indigenous people incorporate images from electronic media in their collective imageries of „modern" and conceptualizes the relation between the infrastructure of digital media and the immagined communities that emerge from it.

Paper long abstract:

The contemporary world is often described as "interconnected". People in remote places all around the world are on everyday basis faced with images from a reality that is happening far away from them. The infrastructure of electronic media and social networks connection creates unprecedent virtual closennes, while at the same time constituting "real" distance from the immediate enviroment. The paper is based on a long-term fieldwork at the suburbs of Mexican touristic metropolis of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and deals with the ways in which young indigenous people from the marginalized suburban areas are incorporating the virtual images of what it means to be "modern" or "Western" in the negotiating of their cultural identity. Drawing on Alexei Yurchak's notion of "imaginary West", the paper explores the impact that these imaginary worlds have on the lives of disadvantaged and marginalized people. While seemingly creating a chance of a "better life", the imaginary lifepaths never come true - and they are thus only making the gap between real and virtual more present and visible. Based on ethnographic data, an attempt is made to concptualize the classic distincition between structure and agency (so often used when intepreting marginality) in new terms of "infrastructure" and its "limits".

Panel P060
The anthropology of infrastructure: ordering people, places, and imaginaries