Global Infrastructures and the Environment: Rethinking Legitimation, Socio-spatial Dynamics, and Resistance

Workshop at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research, 21–22 June 2023, Duisburg

Infrastructure remains one of the most exciting debates in the Social Sciences and Humanities, providing an entry point to understanding the making of socio-cultural fabrics, (geo)politics, spatial formations, and development.  These debates have increasingly questioned how infrastructures shape environments, re-make social worlds, co-constitute power, and offer possibilities for transformation. The formation of infrastructure in a (de-)globalizing world is also central to international relations, enabling (or foreclosing) cooperation, different models of (global) governance and contestation, and ways of conducting security and development. In this critical juncture of impending socio-ecological and climate catastrophes, infrastructure’s (contradictory) characteristics offer a suitable opportunity to bring these conversations together.

In this workshop, we propose a critique of the physical and organizational landscapes of modern infrastructures by thinking about the following questions:

  • How do infrastructural projects that exacerbate the climate emergency gain legitimacy and foster global cooperation among a network of actors? 
  • How can infrastructures be understood as key symbolic sites for legitimation and delegitimation processes in our societies?
  • What can the role of infrastructural arrangements be in creating more socio-ecologically sustainable alternatives?
  • What strategies are open to environmental organizations and civil society in confronting infrastructures that are often backed by powerful multinational corporations in cahoots with the political establishment?
  • Why are certain infrastructural projects established against the backdrop of displacement and forced migration of vulnerable or indigenous minorities?

The workshop assembles voices from the frontline and a network of scholars whose works border on International Relations, Environmental and Cultural Studies, Political Science, Development Studies, Sociology, STS, the Global South and many more.