Techno-geographies of the Global South: Narrating and analyzing emergent spaces of uneven development

Friday 11 Marchakhter
3 to 5 pm
in SS 2125
Sidney Smith Hall, 2nd Floor
100 St. George Street M5S

Spatial and geographical metaphors such as “enclave”, “corridor”, “archipelago”, “splinters”, “bypass”, and “network” have proliferated in the critical social sciences over the past two decades. This has happened as a result of attempts to convey the dynamic emerging geographies of global and/or globalizing space. The analytical thrust of these metaphors is to get around what political geographer John Agnew has called the “territorial trap” – the centrality of the state/nation in discussions of global and international space. Despite the descriptive appeal of spatial metaphors, however, they often raise more questions than they answer. They also risk downplaying how states continue to shape and exacerbate patterns of inequality at the global scale. This paper critically engages the use of spatial metaphors by synthesizing insights from my ongoing research on the historical and emerging political geographies of drones and dams in Pakistan. I offer two concepts that enable the systematic interrogation of the spatial conditions and effects of technological artifacts and infrastructures as one way to begin explaining the inter-scalar complexity of spatial relations. I share how the Gramscian concept of “passive revolution” and the “technozone” concept from the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) have helped me avoid the territorial trap even while remaining attentive to the role of the state in the production of global inequality in the capitalist world system. Moreover, I argue that these concepts could enable what Vijay Prashad has called the project of the “Third World”- which includes making structural comparisons, connections, and solidarities between regions of the Global South.

akhterMajed Akhter is Assistant Professor of Geography at Indiana University – Bloomington. His research interests include the politics of water development, drone war and imperialism, infrastructures and regionalism, Marxist geographical theory, and the political and historical geography of Pakistan and South Asia. His research has appeared in journals such as Antipode, Political Geography, and Critical Asian Studies. His next research project will examine how Chinese infrastructural investment in the transcontinental New Silk Road shapes the political geography and geopolitics of Pakistani state and territory.

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