The Technopolitics of Statebuilding: The Entanglement of Infrastructure, Security and Political Order in Western Stabilization Efforts in Africa (A research outline)
Dr. Jan Bachmann (School of Global Studies, U Gothenburg)
|Date||Wednesday, 23 November 2016, 5:15 pm – 6:45 pm|
|Location||SFB 1199 | Strohsackpassage | Nikolaistraße 6-10 | 5th floor | 04109 Leipzig|
Can roads literally lead to peace? While perhaps an odd question to ask, contemporary international interventions—collective efforts by the UN, donor countries, and development organizations—increasingly deploy infrastructure in efforts to attain highly contested outcomes, such as security and the extension of state authority, in conflict environments. Electricity, buildings, sewage but particularly roads are tangled into efforts to create peace and rebuild states. Hence, it seems that the inherently political objectives of an intervention, that is, increase state capacity and enhance security, is to be attained by what is conventionally seem as a mere technical means. We understand this form of statebuilding as an attempt to strategize infrastructure systems for the transformation of societies.
While large infrastructure systems have always been seen as instrumental to the projections of state power, their political character goes beyond such a simple conclusion. Being important mediators in the participation of collective life, infrastructures also facilitate and convey aspirations and ideas on the “common good”, wealth, mobility, participation, vulnerability, etc. Drawing on the anthropology of infrastructure and science and technology studies, in this project we aim at mapping some of the controversies that emerge at sites of Western stabilization and statebuilding missions in Central and the Horn of Africa across donor assumptions, engineering expertise, and emergent publics. By pointing to both contestation and unpredictability of these efforts of political engineering, we contribute to an emergent literature within international studies that puts the study of technology and infrastructure centre-stage.
Jan Bachmann (School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden)
Jan Bachmann is a lecturer in peace and development research and international relations. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Bristol (United Kingdom). His thesis was a theory-driven study on international counterterrorism engagement in Kenya building upon the work of Michel Foucault. He also holds an MA in political science from Leipzig University (Germany). His main fields of interest are at the intersections between international relations, critical political geography, political ethnography and science and technology studies. He is currently particularly interested in political controversies that arise around infrastructure projects in sub-Saharan Africa.