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.

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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. 

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The Penstocks

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

Coming soon…

View or download the complete Collection no. 002 here (a lot of MB):

Coming soon…

Collection no. 001 – February 2019 – Infrastructural Times

The first curated collection of Roadsides advances an argument that infrastructure is inherently lively and fragile because it is always a complex web of multiple temporalities. The texts in this collection show a few examples of the variety of temporalities that make and unmake infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic, in Tajikistan, in India, at the eastern borders of the European Union, in Switzerland and in England. Focusing explicitly on those temporalities should provide food for thought in terms of rethinking infrastructure as an asynchronic timescape (Adam 1998).

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Julie Chu, Tina Harris, Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi, Madlen Kobi, Galen Murton, Nadine Plachta, Matthäus Rest, Alessandro Rippa, Martin Saxer, Christina Schwenkel, and Max Woodworth

We are delighted to present the initial collection of Roadsides entitled “Infrastructural Times”, curated by Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi.

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Introduction: Infrastructure as an Asynchronic Timescape

Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi encourages us to think infrastructures such as roads, pipelines or dams as places in which specific social relations intersect and accumulate over time, forming unique social-material-political terrain.

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Making Time in Maintenance Work

Ignaz Strebel, Moritz F. Fürst, and Alain Bovet demonstrate how time is perceived by maintenance workers in Switzerland as highly intersubjective, with a functioning water infrastructure being “a collective endeavour over time.”

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The Infrastructural Side Effects of Geopolitics: Fortuitous Socio-Biological Modifications to Three European Borders

Francisco Martínez and Tarmo Pikner take us to three borders: between Georgia and Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, and Estonia and Russia – to observe how geopolitics translates onto highly unstable infrastructural forms that affect the cycles of agricultural work, fishing and commuting.

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Back to the Future: The Aftermath of Soviet Modernity in Tajikistan’s Pamirs

Carolin Maertens analyses the visit of Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon to the Wakhan Valley in the Pamirs as a “temporal event” that reveals how the future-oriented vision of the president collides with the local feeling that modernity has already happened in the past.

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Geological Surprises: State Rationality and Himalayan Hydropower in India

Mabel D. Gergan discusses the entangled temporalities of geological science and infrastructure construction in India, focusing in particular on “geological surprises”, that is, the ways in which the “young” Himalayan terrain interferes in state plans of dam construction.

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Midnight Blues in the Melting Arctic

Mia M. Bennett walks us through the suspended reality of the polar day and ponders how things thought of as permanent, such as permafrost, have turned out to be much less than that in the Canadian Arctic.

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Tailbacks in Time, East Anglia

Richard D.G. Irvine focuses on the time-depth of the terrain beneath the A14, a major road in east England. Superimposed on a Roman road and skirting the subsiding Fens, recent construction also uncovered the 100,000-year-old remains of a woolly mammoth, revealing very different environmental past.

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View or download the complete Collection no. 001 here (38 MB):