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The Social and Political Life of Latin American Infrastructures

Understanding Latin American identity, history, and politics through its infrastructure and architecture.

From roads, railways, statues, and bridges, infrastructure provides a unique lens through which to view our own national histories and societies. Serving as an important conduit between individuals and the state, infrastructure can help mediate citizenship, reshape social relations between people both within and across communities, and has the capacity to underpin—or indeed, undermine—nation-building.

Over the last century, infrastructure has transformed Latin America. Roads, railways, and airports have increased connectivity between spaces, peoples, and markets. Cables, switches, and tunnels have connected households to electricity grids, water systems, and digital technology. Public buildings, parks, and monuments have reshaped towns and cities and emerged as sites to construct and contest citizenship. Infrastructure has been welcomed and celebrated in Latin America, but it has also been resisted and destroyed.

Based on recent, original research, the essays in this collection cover a range of pressing infrastructural considerations, including sustainability, water conflict, extractive mining, and public housing in Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico to better understand how infrastructure has reshaped Latin America over the past century.

280 pages | 10 halftones, 6 maps | 6 x 9

Architecture: American Architecture

Political Science: Urban Politics


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Table of Contents

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

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