The Social and Political Life of Latin American Infrastructures

Edited by Jonathan Alderman and Geoff Goodwin
5 October 2022
229 × 152 mm
298 pp
Paperback: 978-1-908857-95-8
PDF: 978-1-908857-98-9

From houses to roads, infrastructures offer a unique lens through which to explore social and political change. Serving as an important conduit between states and citizens, infrastructures provide governments with a powerful tool to mould subjects and control populations. Yet, at the same time they also give individuals, communities, and movements a platform to challenge the state and forge alternative forms of citizenship and politics. Infrastructures therefore shape social and political relations in unexpected ways and never dutifully follow the scripts of politicians, bureaucrats, and engineers.

Latin America provides fertile terrain to explore these issues. The region has been subject to extensive foreign intervention for centuries and much of its infrastructure has primarily been constructed to benefit colonial and imperial powers. Yet Latin America has also seen widespread resistance to colonial-capitalist expansion, and infrastructures have been central to these diverse struggles. Drawing on recent empirical research, this cross-disciplinary book demonstrates the value of analysing social and political change through infrastructure. The authors explore a diverse range of Latin American infrastructures, from a sparkling new tram network in Ecuador to a crumbling old nuclear plant in Cuba. Building on the empirical chapters, the editors demonstrate the value of conceptualising infrastructure as a relational and experimental process. In addition to making a novel contribution to global infrastructure debates, the volume offers important new insights into Latin American history, society, and politics.

Table of contents: 

Foreword. The Social and Political Life of Latin American Infrastructures

Penny Harvey  

Introduction: Infrastructure as Relational and Experimental Process

Jonathan Alderman and Geoff Goodwin

1. Dreams of an anchored state: mobility infrastructure and state presence in Quehui Island, Chile

Diego Valdivieso Sierpe

2. ‘They want to change us by charging us’: Drinking water provision and water conflict in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Julie Dayot

3. Water storage reservoirs in Mataquita: Clashing measurements and meanings

Ursula Balderson

4. Planning a new society: Urban politics and public housing in Natal, Brazil

Yuri Gama

5. Contested statebuilding? A four-part framework of infrastructure development during armed conflict

Clara Voyvodic

6. Competing infrastructures in local mining governance in Mexico

Valeria Guarneros-Meza and Marcela Torres-Wong

7. ´Somos Zona Roja´: top-down informality and institutionalised exclusion from broadband internet services in Santiago de Chile

Nicolás Valenzuela-Levi

8. The contradictions of sustainability: Discourse, planning and the tramway in Cuenca, Ecuador

Sam Rumé

9. The record keepers: Maintaining canals, traditions and Inca codes of law in 1920s Huarochirí, Peru

Sarah Bennison  

10. The Cuban nuclear dream: The afterlives of the Project of the Century

Nicole Fadellin