Working group 8: Infrastructuring environments and the politics of vulnerability


Chairs: Mira Käkönen (Tampere University,, Anu Lounela (University of Helsinki) and Anja Nygren (University of Helsinki)

The recent infrastructural (re)turn in global development (Crow-Miller et l. 2017, Dodson 2017) is manifested, for example, in the accelerated building of new power grids, roads, dams, irrigation schemes, energy systems, mines, ports and special economic zones. Some infrastructures are built in support of different forms of resource extraction while others are developed to fix the climate and environmental problems, often resulting in ‘green extractivism’.  Infrastructure is ‘matter that enables the movement of other matter’ (Larkin 2013:329) but infrastructures may also cause major environmental disruptions and harm affected people in violent ways (Rodgers and O’Neill 2012, Li 2018).

With the term ‘infrastructuring environments’ we draw from the work of Blok et al (2016:3) who approach infrastructure making as processes in which human and non-human (natural and technical) relations get newly organised in enduring ways. Infrastructuring is thus a mode of worlding in which new socionatural relations and socispatial orderings are produced. Infrastructures are also paradoxical in that they produce (dis)connections and (in)visibilities while mitigating and producing risks (Howe et al. 2016) and benefitting some while harming others. In terms of infrastructural climate responses, there is a pervasive pattern of making some more secure while vulnerabilising others (Taylor 2015). 

In this working group we are interested in discussions on how the infrastructural (re)turn alters and produces new socionatural relations, what are the current enchantments of infrastructure (Harvey 2012), what is being promised and how these promises may fail or harm people and nature, what kinds of patterns of access and control get locked-in and with what effects particularly in terms of newly differentiated vulnerabilities. We also invite presentations that examine different patterns of infrastructural violence in environmental engineering, experiences of environmental (in)justices and modes of contestation.

Additional info: The WG is organised in-person, but limited amount of online participation is also possible.


Blok, A., Nakazora, M. and Winthereik, B.R. (2016) Infrastructuring Environments. Science as Culture 25(1): 1–22. 

Crow-Miller, B., Webber, M. and Molle, F. (2017) The (re)turn to infrastructure for water management? Water Alternatives 10(2): 195–207.

Dodson, J. (2017) The Global Infrastructure Turn and Urban Practice, Urban Policy and Research 35(1): 87-92. 

Harvey, P. and Knox, H. (2012) The Enchantments of Infrastructure, Mobilities 7(4): 521-536.

Howe, C. et al. (2016) Paradoxical Infrastructures: Ruins, Retrofit, and Risk. Science, Technology, & Human Values 41(3): 547–565. 

Larkin, B. (2013) The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure, Annual Review of Anthropology 42: 327-43.

Li, T. M. (2018) After the land grab: Infrastructural violence and the “Mafia System” in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zones, Geoforum 96: 328-337.

Rodgers, D. and O’Neill, B. (2012). Infrastructural violence. Ethnography 13(4): 401–412. 

Taylor, M. (2015). The political ecology of climate change adaptation: Livelihoods, agrarian change and the conflicts of development. London: Routledge.