Infrastructures are essential to the everyday workings of contemporary societies in Asia and the Pacific and to their articulation with globalizing forces. Yet most analyses overlook the profoundly cultural character of infrastructures and their role in the very feel of contemporary human life. “Infrastructure” typically receives analytic treatment as a techno-functional system without cultural dimension. At the same time, studies of “culture” seldom set their sights on the techno-political operations of built infrastructural networks. These analytic and theoretical dispositions need to be questioned and reframed so as to reveal the aesthetic, political, religious, and experiential dimensions of infrastructural systems. New studies from Indonesia promise fresh, innovative, and perhaps model ways of bringing “culture” and “infrastructure” into a single frame of description and analysis.
This two-day conference and workshop aims to engage scholars, policy-makers, and others interested in Asia and the Pacific with its interdisciplinary emphasis on linking the humanities and qualitative social sciences to policy, public works, technology, labor, diplomacy, education, corporate business, and development. Taking their inspiration and point of departure from ethnographic projects currently under way in Indonesia, our keynote speakers will explore ways to bring humanities-oriented anthropological approaches to bear on the ethnographic depiction and understanding of infrastructures with the aim of revealing their politico-aesthetic power, design, and purpose.
Ahmad Sadali, Gunungan Emas (The Golden Mountain), 1980. Oil, wood, canvas.