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Journal Article

Building Highland Asia in the Twenty-First Century


Rest,  Matthäus
Kostbare Kulturen, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Rippa, A., Murton, G., & Rest, M. (2020). Building Highland Asia in the Twenty-First Century. Verge: studies in global Asias, 6(2): 0083, pp. 83-111. doi:10.5749/vergstudglobasia.6.2.0083.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-B7BB-8
[In this article we review the most recent literature on infrastructure in the social sciences and show its relevance for the study of Highland Asia. We consider the spatial, scalar, and temporal aspects of construction and, in so doing, develop new conceptual tools to evaluate the social and political configurations of states and citizens in some particularly “out of the way places.” Importantly, we show that many of the largescale development interventions planned throughout the region defy the “backgroundness” and invisible “infra-ness” normally associated with the term infrastructure, especially with respect to recent social science and history of technology studies scholarship. On the contrary, drawing on Aihwa Ong's concept of hyperbuilding, we argue that many new highways, dams, railroads, and the like are highly conspicuous, both visually and discursively. Long before their actual construction starts, the “infrastructural imaginaries” behind such projects already work as a purported promise for future prosperity and connectivity and lend legitimacy to logics of “the state” in areas historically difficult to access and hard to govern.]