The Social and Political Life of Latin American Infrastructures

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

From houses to roads, infrastructure provides a unique lens through which to explore social and political change. Serving as an important conduit between states and individuals, infrastructure provides governments with a powerful tool to mould citizens and control populations. Yet, at the same time, it also provides individuals and collectives with a platform to challenge the state and forge alternative forms of citizenship and politics. Infrastructure therefore often reconfigures social and political relations in unexpected ways and never dutifully follows 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 been primarily constructed to benefit colonial and imperial powers. Yet it has also been an important site of resistance, and infrastructure has been central to these struggles, including indigenous efforts to challenge capitalist-colonial expansion. Latin America’s history and diversity create unique infrastructure configurations, and the region’s remarkable geography adds to their distinctiveness.

This cross-disciplinary book seeks to capture the characteristics, limits and vibrancy of Latin America’s infrastructures.  The empirical chapters explore a wide range of infrastructures, from irrigation networks in Peru to nuclear plants in Cuba. The introduction builds on these chapters to show the value of understanding infrastructure as a relational and experimental process. In doing so, the volume makes a novel contribution to global infrastructure debates and provides important new insights into Latin America’s history and politics.

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