projects

This project approaches the zone in China as an infrastructure space. Recognizing that infrastructures involve more than just material constructions (bridges, pipelines, highways, wires, satellites), but also standards, regulations, models, and templates, ‘zone infrastructures’ are spaces that have been separated out to function as infrastructure; that is, to facilitate movement, connection, and the mobility of other things.  In addition, and extending from a socialist legacy of zones as exceptional and experimental spaces of engineered social transformation, zones model aspirational futures, and can thus be thought of as infrastructures for worlds to come. Read more …

My research to date has primarily focused on large-scale and highly visible infrastructure projects such as roads, Special Economic Zones, and new resettlement projects in rural China. My theoretical approach to such infrastructural spaces has been influenced by works in the social sciences that see infrastructure as ‘fundamentally’ relational. Here infrastructures are understood as both things and relations among things and thus defined by a multitude of practices. Furthermore, infrastructures are highly symbolic, generating affective responses and political outcomes. In my work, I address infrastructures as compelling sites for studying particular regimes of expectations, as well as points of relation that generate deferral and abandonment. Read more …

Recent scholarly work on China has devoted much attention to policy directives that aim to export a “China Model” of infrastructure-led urban and regional development to emerging economies in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Less attention has been paid to the origins of those infrastructure models, which form the centerpiece of the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). My project addresses that gap by studying the development of China’s airport infrastructure from the 1980s to the present. Read More…

Surveillance Infrastructure Effects

监视基础设施的影响

Darren Byler

This research focuses on the development of a “safe city” surveillance infrastructure system in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The project is built by the private Chinese company Sensetime, one of the key firms involved in the surveillance of Turkic Muslims in Northwest China, and other firms that have been ascribed protected “AI Champion” status by Chinese state authorities. The “safe city” system includes a web of face and voice recognition-enabled surveillance cameras, license plate recognition technologies, command centers, data storage centers, data interface platforms and portable data assessment tools. Read More…

I originally embarked on a project to consider the politics of highly visible transport infrastructure projects – highways, rail lines, new airports – that are currently being constructed in Tibetan areas of China, specifically in western Sichuan.  However, the contingencies of field research pushed me in an entirely different direction: to several cases where Xi Jinping’s new program for ecological civilization has intersected with post-Wenchuan earthquake reconstruction to become struggles over the presence of tourist/scenic area infrastructure. Read More…

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