Roads and the politics of thought: Ethnographic approaches to infrastructure development in South Asia

Dr Simpson, who is the Principal Investigator, will work with a team which includes Dr Laura Jeffery and Dr Kanchana N. Ruwanpura at the University of Edinburgh, an award-winning collective of contemporary artists, CAMP, who are based in Mumbai, India and at least three post-doctoral positions at SOAS.

The research will be rooted in case studies of particular road projects in Pakistan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. These sites have been selected to bring to the fore how nation-building, neo-liberalism, ambition, environmental vulnerability and modernity feature in contemporary road-building.

The scholars will look at the organisation of road building on the ground, in offices, and within a broader array of institutions and state bodies in national and international contexts in order to understand the global cultures of road-building practice.

The aim of the research is to survey expert opinion and uncover the ideas driving current road-building practices in South Asia. As roads are being constructed at astounding and unprecedented rates in certain parts of the world, the research will ask: why, to what end and what ideas lie in the foundations of this new infrastructure? As cheap oil dwindles and questions of climate change remain, why are so many multi-lateral institutions cultivating new roads?

Project Contact:

Edward Simpson
Es7 @ soas.ac.uk
http://www.soas.ac.uk/anthropology/research/roads/