[URBANTH-L]AAA San Jose CFP: The enchantment of infrastructures/ The infrastructures of enchantment

Laura Hubbard lhubbard at uclink.berkeley.edu
Tue Mar 14 15:40:43 EST 2006

Dear all,

Please consider the following call for papers for the next AAA meeting -- we seek creative 
enagement and dialogue on the anthropology of infrastructures...

Looking forward to hearing from interested participants.

CFP: The Enchantment of Infrastructures/The Infrastructures of Enchantment
American Anthropological Association Meetings, San Jose, 2006

This panel brings together ethnographic explorations of infrastructures as simultaneously 
concrete, analytic and enchanted.  In doing so it seeks to deepen recent inquiries into “Cultures 
of Circulation” and the “transfiguration” of forms (cultural, economic, technological, etc) that 
they constrain and enable.  We are especially interested in work that explores the consonance and 
dissonance between infrastructural forms in the world and the forms and modes of affect, 
belonging, consumption and theorizing that they enable, regulate, and mediate.

Glossing infrastructure as both subject of analysis and mode of theoretical inquiry we aim to 
foreground the sometimes difficult movement between “the seductive sparkle of the ‘thing’” and the 
quiet work of the generative matrix in both our theoretical approaches and ethnographic cases. We 
seek to shift scholarly attention from the assumption of smooth and efficient transfers of images 
and information to the messy, haphazard productivity of being struck by the ways infrastructural 
“flows” are subject to the friction of contingency and emergency creating possible alternate sets 
of relations to capital, nation, diaspora etc.

We take enchantment here as deriving from a notion of a “demanding environment” a la Gaonkar and 
Povinelli and from Jane Bennett’s provocative formulation of “the agency of assemblages” in which 
persons are “always engaged in an intricate dance with non-humans, with the urgings, tendencies 
and pressures of other bodies, including air masses, minerals, microorganisms and for some people 
the forces of divine will or karma”.  Enchantment is thus not limited to the sacred or 
phantasmagoric but instead has primarily to do with the notion that non-human materialities should 
be figured less as social constructions and more as actors/actants with material impacts.

This panel offers work that looks at the politics, pragmatics and analytics of infrastructure and 
interconnection beyond world cities, the sclerosis inherent in Cultures of Circulation and the 
failures, distortion and piracy that humble and reshape the infrastructures of anthropological 
theory. We seek examinations of what Larkin has termed “pirate infrastructures”, of quotidian 
conditions of technological failure and the aesthetic forms and cosmopolitanisms such corruptions 
and para-sites produce. We ask: how are breakdowns in infrastructure recoded, lived, mediated in 
practice and how are these “failures” productive of alternative modes of organizing time, space, 
and economy?

Paper topics might include: The modes of subjectivity, politics and aesthetics enabled by the 
force, affect and materiality of infrastructures of the internet, mobile phone networks, portable 
audio devices, the built and building world of suburbs or edge cities, road or wall construction 
or destruction, “automobility,” public service administration, media regulation, the networks of 
distribution of pirated goods, forms and images, the notions of property and ownership utilized in 
varied nodes of circulation, and other instances where failure enables a moment of unexpected 

This panel will be submitted to the American Anthropological Association for presentation at the 
2006 annual AAA meetings in San Jose, CA. Paper abstracts are due asap in order to meet the March 
31st deadline set by the AAA.  Interested panelists should review AAA guidelines or presenters to 
be sure they can fulfill those requirements.

Please forward abstracts to co-organizers:
Chris Vasantkumar, UC Berkeley Anthropology: cvasantkumar at yahoo.com
Laura Hubbard, UC Berkeley Anthropology: lhubbard at berkeley.edu

Laura Hubbard
PhD Candidate
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley

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