AAS/ASAANZ/ASA 2017: Infrastructural edgelands

The verdict from twitter

I’ve just returned from another trip to Adelaide (this is getting to be a habit, South Australia), this time for a combined conference of the Australian, New Zealand, and UK anthropological societies. As a New Zealander working in Australia and researching Britain, it was especially lovely to see so many familiar faces and catch up with friends from near and far.

The conference theme was ‘shifting states‘, and I was part of the ‘Everyday life of infrastructures‘ panel, convened by Andy Dawson and Akhil Gupta (whose Skype appearance was as a benevolent head watching over all presenters). The panel got me thinking about an infrastructure before there was something called ‘infrastructures’: English canals and inland navigations. In technological terms, canals were a bit like VHS, and railways the superseding DVD of their day. But, as such big, stone structures, often tangled up in local water and drainage systems, canals didn’t and couldn’t just disappear. Instead, I argued in my paper, canals became what we can think of as ‘infrastructural edgelands’, a kind of parallel map that might be pleasurable or fearful, ruinous or rural.

The panel was a new research provocation for me, and I’m already planning more canal-related adventures for 2018.

Stretching over five days, the conference was a bustling one. Though there were many great moments, one of the highlights for me was the panel in honour of Professor Julie Park. For those of us who have been shaped by the Auckland anthropology programme, Julie is a much-loved, much-admired (and sometimes feared!) grandmother, always ready with books, advice, and no-nonsense talkings-to. Two thumbs up to Sam Taylor-Alexander for knowing that we all needed a Julie Park panel!

Important credit also needs to go out to our very own Melbourne PhD candidates Hannah Gould and Mythily Meher for organising the conference’s ‘#MeTooAnthro’ event. It was fantastic to see so many participants from all sorts of career stages and backgrounds thoughtfully and sensitively engaging in a shared conversation about the harms of harassment and what we can do. This is a conversation that I hope will be continuing, even after we all get back home.


Image credit: Calder & Hebble Canal by Lawrence on flickr