Infrastructural Fragility, Infra-Politics and Jianghu




China, Human Impact, Infra-Politics, Infrastructural Fragility, Jianghu Alterities


This commentary responds to Tim Oakes' analysis of infrastructural power by examining the inherent fragility of mobility infrastructures and their political ramifications. It emphasizes the human element in creating and maintaining these infrastructures, highlighting the intricate interplay of political will, bureaucratic planning, technological know-how, and specialized skills needed for their implementation. The paper contends that the COVID-19 pandemic has starkly demonstrated the vulnerability of mobility infrastructures to rapid collapse. It further explores the concept of infra-politics, referring to subtle acts of resistance within these networks, which significantly disrupt their efficient operation. The Chinese concept of jianghu, representing a metaphorical space of alterity, is introduced to propose that infra-politics might evolve into alternative relational forms, challenging and potentially subverting the dominance of centralized networks.

Author Biography

Susanne Brandtstädter, University of Cologne

Susanne Brandtstädter is a China anthropologist and holds a Chair in the Anthropology of Globalization at the University of Cologne. She has undertaken long-term ethnographic fieldwork in both China and Taiwan and is developing new research on Chinese diasporas in Highland Asia. Thematic interests are the emerging world of global China; value and values; justice, ethics, and moral economies; kinship, gender, and social life; labor, skills and economic infrastructures; and dynamics of change


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