Viral Encounters: The Aesthetics of Infrastructural Development in Gwadar

Presentation at the 48th Annual Conference on South Asia

November 4th at 10:54am

Nishat Awan was invited to take part in a panel on 'The Aesthetics and Atmospheres of Construction in Pakistan' organised by Chris Moffat at Queen Mary for the 48th Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, Wisconsin, USA (17-20 Oct 2019).

Here's the abstract of the paper.

Large-scale infrastructures create their own logic within the space and time of development, and particularly so in relation to areas of conflict, organising political and social life around them, from protests against resource extraction and land grabs to changing the rhythm and pace of life in their wake (Anand 2017; Anwar 2015; Cowen 2014). As instruments of neo-colonial power, such projects create forms of state governance through connecting and isolating people and places (Harvey 2012; Khan 2006). Yet the relationship between indigenous land claims that require a recognition of a living landscape and what that means for infrastructural development remains under researched (Povinelli, Coleman, & Yusoff, 2017). The paper explores this relationship through Povinelli’s concept of ‘geontologies’ (2016) and thinking with Easterling’s understanding of infrastructure as a ‘disposition of a space’ (2014). Focusing on the port city of Gwadar, which is the terminus point of CPEC, the presentation will consider the different aesthetics strategies deployed by various actors in relation to this large-scale construction. From state narratives of prosperity to the glossy images of speculative developers, and the fishing community’s living stories of an inhabited ecology, the presentation will show how aesthetic strategies are key to understanding the conflict over CPEC in Gwadar.