ESR Project 9

Infrastructures of Human Security: Post-Conflict Re-Building of Societies and Futures

Supervisors Paul Wenzel Geissler (University of Oslo) and Filip de Boeck (University of Leuven)

Armed conflict and/or state collapse commonly result in destroyed or dysfunctional infrastructures. Technical and bureaucratic infrastructures that used to embody the civic collective to its citizens - e.g., transport and power grids, water supply and sanitation, housing, scientific and academic institutes, postal and communication services – are in ruins or operate partially at best.

This PhD project wonders what the ruins of civic infrastructures do to in people’s lives, how they are used and re-used, and it asks what happens when civic infrastructures are restored after armed conflict, or following state collapse. What are the immediate effects and benefits, what the technical and political challenges? How does infrastructure rebuilding re-establish historical continuities after rupture? What memories of the past, which former social collectives and expectations are evoked? Can infrastructures serve to reconstruct civic consciousness, national identity, and hopes for the future?

The proposed PhD project will draw on ethnographic research around key infrastructures in the present, as well as within ongoing efforts to restore these. An anthropological focus on the present should be complemented by historical enquiry, including archival and oral historical research. The Norwegian Overseas Development Agency, NORAD, could provide opportunities for access and secondment for this project.