(Im)Mobility Infrastructures: Extending the Application and Scope of Migration Infrastructure Theory


Datum: måndag 28 november 2022

Tid: 13.00 – 14.30

Plats: B600

Research seminar with Floramante SJ Ponce, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany


Drawing on Star’s (1999) and Larkin’s (2013) definitions of infrastructures as ‘relational and ecological’ and ‘socio-technical platforms,’ the migration infrastructure theory analyzes how various infrastructures—the interconnection of technologies, actors, and institutions—mediate and engender migrant mobilities (Xiang and Lindquist 2014, S122; Lin et al. 2017, 168). Up to now, the migration infrastructure theory has been only applied to international migration or transnational cross-border mobilities. The proposed ‘(im)mobility infrastructure’ framework applies the migration infrastructure theory in a more permanent type of mobility: development-induced internal displacement. Leveraging ethnographic data from a Chinese Hydropower Project’s resettlement site in north-western Laos, the paper also identifies diverse infrastructures that impinge upon not just physical mobilities but also geographical immobilities. Xiang and Lindquist (2014) have been reticent about different infrastructures that enhance people’s preference to stay in one place for long periods of time, although they mention how some migration infrastructures impede ‘migrant’s capability’ by facilitating ‘intensive regulation, commodification, and intervention’ (S125). To explore these ‘immobility infrastructures’—set of interconnected technologies, actors, and institutions that improve one’s desires and capacities to be immobile—reduces ‘mobility bias’ (Schewel 2020, 329). I argue that the identification of various ‘immobility infrastructures’ in the context of development-induced resettlement has some practical implications. While it pinpoints sources of disillusionment of some villagers who left the new settlement, it also helps to identify some infrastructures that need to be changed or improved to increase the aspirations and capabilities of the displaced to stay in the resettlement community.


Floramante SJ Ponce is a PhD Candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany. He has been a member of the Research Group ‘Electric Statemaking in the Greater Mekong Subregion’ since September 2017.