Collection no. 002 – August 2019 – Labor
This second collection of Roadsides employs artistically rendered depictions of labor to show how infrastructures become political and material things through social relations of work. Aesthetically creative and methodologically experimental, the articles utilize photographs, paintings, cartoons, and videos to examine and reveal the impacts and experiences of technological intervention that sometimes escape the frame of textual analysis. Taking up the challenge of labor across a range of scales and places, the collection moves from Nepal and India’s Himalayan borderlands to the Paraguayan Chaco, downtown London to the deserts of Sudan, and urban Sri Lanka to Afghanistan’s Wakhan highlands to illustrate many of the inevitable cracks in the dreams of infrastructural pasts and futures.
Edited by Galen Murton
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Galen Murton invites readers to explore Roadsides collection no. 002 and to discover how the lenses of multiple artistic media illuminate the intricacies of infrastructural work and the layered politics of road development in aesthetically and conceptually innovative ways.
Stacy Pigg uses imagery and vignettes from the graphic novel to illustrate how the complicated delivery of penstock equipment to a major hydropower project in Nepal reflects both a uniquely local but nearly universal story of anticipation, disruption, and delay of infrastructural intervention.
Arrested Infrastructure: Roadwork, Rights, Racialized Geographies
Joel Correia develops a photoessay about a ‘road to nowhere’ in the Paraguayan Chaco to show how state-led development to Indigenous communities is routinely characterized not by the fulfillment of mobility promises but rather by an arrest of infrastructures which itself resembles the state’s long suspension of Indigenous human rights.
Labor Geographies: Uneven Infrastructures in Nepal’s Rana Period
Nadine Plachta and Subas Tamang use a series of etching aquatint paintings of labor and (im)mobility in Nepal to provide an historical view of state power that was maintained specifically by not building roads alongside exploitative practices of resource extraction enabled by corvee labor and codifed caste hierarchy.
Stories from a Jaffna Auto Stand
daniel dillon uses photography and autoethnography to capture the aspirations and frustrations of rickshaw drivers at a bus stand in Jaffna, Sri Lanka and shares their philosophical and physical stories about making the best of everyday challenges posed by gendered positionalities.
Sudanese Industrial Sound: Sonic Labour in a Truck Workshop
Valerie Hänsch employs audio-visual documentary to present the dynamics of ‘sonic labor’ in mechanic workshops of the Sudan, showing how the practice of metalsmithing is played to the percussive beat of motivational sound for the transformation of British Bedford lorries into trans-desert cargo vessels.
Picturing Diversions: The Work/Play of Walking on London Pavements
Jan van Duppen goes on a walk through the streets of London and utilizes a point-and-shoot camera to illustrate and reflect how incessant infrastructural improvements and the waste they generate are rarely made in the interests of pedestrian but rather according to concerns of more rapid flows of capital.
Ora et Labora: Buddhist Nuns as Road Builders in Zanskar
Marta Normington takes the artist’s lens to a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in Zanskar India to autoethnographically discover the ways in which spiritual attainment and material progress are not mutually exclusive things but rather two hands of complimentary labor that build rural roads together.
Affective Labor: Afghanistan’s Road to China
Tobias Marschall and Till Mostowlansky bring into view the affective experiences of labor in the harshest of conditions in Afghanistan’s Wakhan region to photographically show how dreams and work intersect across scales from the personal to the national at the crossroads of China.
Expeditions Along the Precipice: Circulations that construct India’s Border Roads
Anu Sabhlok and Noor Sharma paint a picture of hope and heroism experienced as geographical imaginaries far from home by labor migrants in India who travel annually from the plains of Jharkhand to the mountains of Ladakh in order to build roads for the state and national interests.
Labouring for Connectivity in Arunachal Pradesh
Edward Boyle and Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman travel to the disputed state of Arunachal Pradesh in northeast India to examine the tensions between border roads developed to mobilize military defenses against China and the predominantly Nepali labor migrants who are employed and exploited to advance state security interests.