Accepted paper:

Engaging Africa's infrastructure boom

Author:

Jonathan Fox (University of Adelaide)

Paper short abstract:

This paper engages Africa's infrastructure boom as not simply an object of critical analysis, but instead involved in shaping the production of its own literature.

Paper long abstract:

This paper seeks to critically engage Africa's infrastructure boom as not simply an object of critical analysis, but instead involved in shaping the production of its own literature. Focusing on the ostensive political and material conditions that surround infrastructure projects, this paper provides a first-pass categorisation of those ostensive conditions which are influencing what gets written about Africa's infrastructure boom. It considers the way in which infrastructure works favour access to certain types of data at the expense of others, the difficulties in conducting research over long distances and across sovereign borders, and some of the institutional challenges which come from more familiar spaces, such as research institutions, funding bodies and permit offices. The ability of infrastructure projects to transgress multiple boundaries, brings sharply into focus some of the blunter edges of our approaches to projects of new scale and complexity. The aim of this paper is to make explicit some of these factors, and to approach them anew; no longer simply getting in the way of our access to the real "subject at hand", but instead, intrinsically part of the parcel of contemporary infrastructure works and therefore in need of focused and critical attention.

panel P42
Modernization 2.0: new directions in the anthropology of development