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Topics in Anthropology (290-0-3)


Infrastructure, Power, and Justice in the Anthropo


Ekin Kurtic

Meeting Info

University Hall 218: Tues, Thurs 3:30PM - 4:50PM

Overview of class

Our lives are configured through the routinized functioning of infrastructures that mostly remain invisible until they break down. Material infrastructures such as roads, bridges, grids, and dams connect people, places, ideas, and things across time and space. They promise spatial and social connectivity, environmental control, technological modernization, and development in the age of Anthropocene defined as the era in which human activities play a dominant role in environmental changes. However, they also lead to uneven access to resources, prevent mobility, and produce injustices and socio-political conflicts. This course will scrutinize infrastructures to discuss their social, political, and environmental lives. We will read and discuss anthropological studies that examine how infrastructures are constructed, used, maintained, and repaired in everyday life. In this exploration, we will pay specific attention to power relations, social meanings, and environmental transformations that shape and are shaped by infrastructures. Conceptual themes include, among others, urban citizenship, state power, social conflicts, securitization, violence, community building, and ecology. These themes will be explored through the focus on water systems, renewable energy, road projects, waste facilities, oil extraction, housing, and other infrastructures. We will pay specific attention to infrastructure and its politics in the Global South, through readings and other course materials on regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, South East Asia, Africa, and South America. The course will also cover new understandings of infrastructure beyond material systems; we will discuss the new perspectives that approach social relations and nature as infrastructures that sustain human and non-human life.

Learning Objectives

• To introduce the relevance and importance of anthropological perspectives in understanding infrastructures.
• To think about the intersections of material, social, and environmental aspects of life that are often approached as distinct.
• To discuss the centrality of infrastructures in the reproduction of power asymmetries and injustices as well as in building community and forging alternative futures."

Teaching Method

Lecture and collective discussion

Evaluation Method

Assignments such as papers and other exercises

Class Materials (Required)

Journal articles, book chapters, video clips, newspaper articles - All these materials will be uploaded to course website by the instructor