Call for Papers

Photo: Karchoong Diyali

Collection no. 012: Infrastructural Anxieties

Fall 2024

Editors: Mikel Venhovens and Mona Chettri

Infrastructures are much more than just the mundane tangible objects they are perceived to be in everyday life by the ordinary bystander. Roads, fences, buildings, pipelines, sidewalks, railroads, sewage systems and so on, are all part of complex assemblages shaped by the “dynamic relational forms” that they share with people, things, organizations and the environment (Harvey and Knox 2015: 4). Infrastructures often represent the materialization of modernity, progress, mobility and positive influence of the state. However, they can also be the cause or manifestation of decline, and thereby invoke a sense of uncertainty or anxiety regarding the present and/or the future. Infrastructure (its failure, ruin or decline) can thus be considered a tangible, material conduit for anxiety.

Defined as a state of agitation, being troubled in mind, feeling uneasy about a coming event (Tyrer 1999: 3), anxiety is aphysically embodied state involving both mental and emotional distress, combined with a more diffuse worry about what might (be)come. The focus on temporality here lies in looking at what the future holds and how current events will affect that future, both as individuals but also as part of combined entities such as governments and (nation-)states. Infrastructures, as Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox put forward, render the social and political visible in our contemporary world (Harvey and Knox 2015: 4). This in turn, we argue, creates uncertainty regarding the current situation of peoples and what the future might hold. The relationality between populations, infrastructure and anxiety in this way becomes tangible.

So, how does anxiety materialize through infrastructural settings? In what manner does infrastructural modernization, decay or renovation bring forth or combat anxiety? How do the opportunities that come with infrastructural development cope with setbacks or envisioned futures never met? What kind of role does technology play in this? How are these anxieties dealt with by the affected local populations and the authorities, and how does this impact their coexistence?

This edited collection seeks to answer these questions through a critical analysis of the dialectical relationship between infrastructure and anxiety, one that is mediated through materiality. The collection aims to engage with, but is not limited to, the following issues and broad themes concerning infrastructural anxieties:

    1. Manifestations (physical, social, cultural, political)
      How does infrastructural anxiety manifest itself? How is anxiety being created by certain forms of infrastructure? What is the relation between anxiety and infrastructures?
    2. Impacts (direct as well as indirect)
      What is the impact of anxiety on infrastructures? How is anxiety made tangible in everyday life and how does it affect both populations and infrastructures? How does the state of infrastructure further individual or collective uncertainty and anxiety?
    3. Politics and assemblages that enable/are a result of infrastructural anxieties
      What kinds of processes enable the proliferation of infrastructural anxieties? Which socio-political changes and what sorts of politics have emerged as result of specific infrastructural anxieties?

As part of preparation for this edited collection, we are organising a workshop at Sandbjerg Gods, Sønderborg, Denmark from 22 to 24 April 2024. Selected contributors will be expected to join the workshop either in person or virtually; in-person attendance is strongly preferred. Thanks to a generous grant by the Carlsberg Foundation, all workshop-related costs of the participants (viz. travel, accommodation) will be covered.

Important dates:

    • Please send a title, abstract (max. 300 words) and a short biography (max. 200 words) by 11 March 2024, with the subject line “Roadsides: Anxieties” to Mikel J.H. Venhovens ( and Mona Chettri ( Please also specify the type of contribution that you intend to submit. We accept short articles, interviews, multimedia and photographic essays, among others. Please consult the “Guide for Authors” for detailed descriptions of the possible formats: We encourage the submission of multimedia formats.
    • Authors of conditionally invited essays will be notified by 15 March 2024.
    • Final essays are due by 7 June 2024 and will subsequently undergo a “double-open” peer review.
    • Publication of the issue is scheduled for November 2024.


Harvey, Penny and Hanna Knox. 2015. Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Tyrer, Peter J. 1999. Anxiety: A Multidisciplinary Review. London: Imperial College Press.

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