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Accepted Paper:

The anti-promise of infrastructures: a sense of stagnant development in a China's small village  
Wenjing Qiu (Leiden University)

Short abstract:

This article examines the local hope and despair about infrastructural development, with a keen interest on the local sense of infrastructural time. Based on a four-month fieldwork in a village in Southeastern China, the research proposes the analytical possibility of the concept "anti-promise".

Long abstract:

Infrastructures can mean the promise of development but in reality they can otherwise become a source of anti-promise. The concept of "anti-promise" has two-fold meaning in my research on a small village amidst economic booming of Southeastern China, which is based on a four-month ethnographic fieldwork about large-scale infrastructures including waste incineration plant and high-voltage electrical station charging nearby high-speed train station. First, the construction of infrastructures technically impact environment, disrupt livelihood and impede economic development. Second, villagers experience a shift of feeling from hope to despair, from progress to stagnation. The sense of stagnation is in the meantime a sense of temporal compression. In other words, villagers find themselves stuck in the middle of an aging and economically backward village, but also right dwelling in a shadowy area adjacent to other developing villages and in the larger city benefiting from the infrastructures. The contrast of progress and stagnation or temporal compression creates a stronger déjà-vu feeling of stagnant development. Villagers bittersweetly celebrate the state development. The more they look forward to the opportunities of project, investment and social welfare, the more they are disappointed about the local government, jealous of wealthier others and enduring an internal divergence due to different economic status. The anti-promise of infrastructural development further exacerbates social inequality by unevenly distributing social benefits and fracturing social relationships within rural community. The research proposes the analytical possibility of "anti-promise" to unravel the shadow of development by examining the local perceptions of infrastructural time imposed by government initiatives.

Traditional Open Panel P106
The promises and fractures of infrastructures: infrastructural imaginaries and the realities of our built world
  Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -