Call for Papers

Collection no. 006 – Senses

In the study of critical infrastructure, debates over the visibility and invisibility of sociotechnical systems have privileged the visual over other sensory engagements. While some scholars have argued that material infrastructures remain out of sight until they fail, others have pointed to a spectrum of perceptibility across time and space. And yet, encounters with infrastructure are more than merely visual. Even in its refusal to be seen, infrastructure can be felt and embodied through other, interdependent sensory fields: the vibrating sound of generators, the pungent smell of petroleum, the tactile shock of electricity, the bitter taste of chlorination all convey the functioning or malfunctioning of systems that sustain our daily life. Rather than think along the lines of sensory deprivation then, infrastructure—broken or not—evokes a multiplicity of embodied sensations across the human sensorium. While the senses may thus serve to mediate infrastructure, the meaning of infrastructure is likewise made and mediated through the senses.

This issue of Roadsides focuses on the sensory dimensions of infrastructure that have yet to be adequately explored and theorized in the literature. The proliferation of scholarship on material infrastructures continues to emphasize the social and the technical over the sensorial, rather than bring these approaches together to study the dense networks that facilitate the provision of goods and resources. This collection seeks to understand the diverse and contingent ways in which we apprehend and make sense of infrastructural worlds through particular modes of sensing. We invite scholars to consider how sensations of infrastructure produce cultural meaning and inspire political action in response to racial, gender, and class inequalities. We especially encourage a non-ocularcentric perspective that addresses one or more of the following questions:

    • In what ways do people “sense” infrastructure and how do those embodied experiences deepen our understanding of human and nonhuman relationships to sociotechnical things?
    • How are social and political subjectivities generated through sensory encounters with infrastructures and their toxicities?
    • What might be gained from bringing the field of sensory studies together with the growing literature on infrastructure?What new perspectives on infrastructure can a focus on the senses provide?
    • How might an attention to the politics of sensation offer new understandings of citizenship and social belonging or exclusion?
    • How are the senses governed through infrastructure? And conversely how is the state “sensed” through infrastructure
    • What methods might best be deployed to capture the range of human sensory experiences of infrastructure and their significances?

We invite textual and cross-genre, multimedia submissions that employ innovative and interdisciplinary approaches through the arts and/or other forms of audiovisual material.

Please send a title, abstract (max. 300 words) and a short biography (max. 200 words) by April 20, 2021 with the subject line “Roadsides: Senses” to cschwenk@ucr.edu. Please also specify the type of contribution that you intend to submit (see Guide for Authors). The authors of conditionally invited essays will be notified by April 30, 2021. Final essays are due by May 31, 2021 and will subsequently undergo a “double-open” peer review. Publication of the issue is scheduled for November 2021.

The issue will be edited by Christina Schwenkel (University of California, Riverside; cschwenk@ucr.edu).

The cover of the Roadsides collection No. 006 was designed by Chari Hamrathanaphon.

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