Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Road Diplomacy (Road Diplomacy: International Infrastructure and Ethnography of Geopolitics in 21st Century Asia)
Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2020-05-31
The MSCA grant period was reduced from 24 months to 15 months because of professional job opportunities presented by my appointment as Assistant Professor of Geographic Science at James Madison University in Virginia, USA. Despite truncating the grant by nine months, I still completed the majority of objectives for the project. Below is a detailed assessment of the progress made on all work packages, with specific outputs (milestones and deliverables) for respective tasks. See attached documents for specific outputs (publications, workshops, conferences, etc.)
Extending from my MSCA project Road Diplomacy, my current book project, Infrastructural Power, analyzes the ways in which infrastructures like highways and hydroelectric projects are leveraged for political purposes across Asian landscapes. In the case of Himalayan mountain communities for whom state presence has long been marked by its conspicuous absence, international development since 2015 marks a turning point in national development trajectories, with a pivot to international interventions increasingly linked to China and climate risk mitigation. Drawing on my multidisciplinary training in religion and diplomacy, I am committed to outreach, engagement, and collaboration and the engagement of broader publics about the uneven politics of natural disaster and international development in Nepal and the Global South. Over the course of my MSCA grant period, I commenced preliminary collaboration with a six international research teams and I expect to continue working together with these research networks in future years. These research teams include: Infrastructures of Democracy (University of Toronto); Roadwork Asia (University of Zurich); Roads: Politics of Thought (SOAS London University); RIZEAsia (University of Aarhus); Borders, Mobilities, Infrastructures (National University of Singapore); and China Made (University of Colorado Boulder).
Following the MSCA research period and moving from the Himalayan borderlands to rural and urban landscapes across the United States, I am now preparing a second research project that seeks answers to the simple question: what’s the matter with infrastructure in America? Motivated by the problematic gap between routine political promises of improvement and the everyday realities of crumbling national transportation and communication networks, the state of infrastructure in the United States is further threatened by the effects of climate change and poses significant risks to national constituencies. Taking the paradox of global infrastructure development between Asia and America as a point of entry – where infrastructure is, respectively, fast and sensational versus slow and neglected – I will generate knowledge about the ways in which infrastructural promises can be harnessed rather than ignored and in what ways political possibility might be mobilized into material public goods in America. This research endeavor builds from and continues to pursue fundamental questions at the center of my MSCA Road Diplomacy project and I look forward to continued collaboration in research about the politics and pitfalls of international infrastructure development with colleagues in Germany, the EU,