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"Promising Growth": Anthropological Reflections on Sprawling Infrastructure and Inequality 
Danaé Leitenberg (University of Basel)
Sabrina Stallone (University of Bern)
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Peter Froggatt Centre (PFC), 02/013
Thursday 28 July, -
Time zone: Europe/London

Short Abstract:

Proposing an understanding of growth as a concept bridging hope and transformation, this panel discusses unequal promises of progress via extractive development and their affective force in late-capitalist contexts. We ground these reflections around the so-called "promise of infrastructure".

Long Abstract:

With the emergence of the Anthropocene debate, notions of linear growth have been increasingly questioned. While a concomitance of crises prompted scholars and activists to rethink the faulty logics of capitalist growth, globally speaking, inequalities caused by extraction have deepened and expansion-oriented technologies have spread. Imaginaries of a brighter future achieved through accumulation too continue to exert their grip on many people and communities around the world, hoping for ideals of the good life inextricably linked with capitalism. Arguing for an understanding of growth as a concept at the conjunction of hope and transformation, we aim to discuss ethnographic examinations of promises of 'progress via extractive sprawl and development' and their affective force in late-capitalist contexts.

We propose to ground these reflections around the planning of infrastructural projects and what anthropological scholarship has recently called "the promise of infrastructure" (Anand, Appel and Gupta 2018), consisting of calls for a transformative future that "exceeds the present" (Gupta 2018: 63). Beyond the often proposed claim that infrastructural projects are aimed towards achieving a particular "common good", responding to preexisting "publics", we follow a social-constructivist approach and are interested in how such publics and affective collectivities are summoned, performed and contested, based on differential affordances structured by gender, race, class, ableness, citizenship, etc. In other words, what are the hopes and threats wrapped around the making or contestation of infrastructural growth in late capitalism? What are the uneven impacts of the growth imperative? How can they be ethnographically captured?

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -