[P6417] Infrastructure and Society in the Middle East and North Africa

Created by Xiaoyue Li
Thursday, 12/02/21 11:30 am


Infrastructures connect, support, delineate, segregate, prosper, indebt, communicate, and separate societies. Their existence in society is often taken for granted, as they constitute the essential backdrop for human life—dwelling, water, lighting, transportation, communication, and so forth. They contour societal landscapes, draws people in, and promises their capacities. Thus, infrastructures are as much material as they are social. They offer, actualize, and engineer arrangements of things, arrangements that determine their durability, viscosity, visibility, and other qualities. Meanwhile, infrastructures configure specific social engagements, from financial operation to material production, from institutional management to various forms of everyday entanglement with people’s desires, identities, and senses of belonging. The distinction between infrastructure’s materiality and sociality is fluid and relational rather than definitive.

This panel considers how human beings make infrastructures and how they make us. It explores Middle Eastern and North African societies through the concept of infrastructure—of things and systems made, built, renovated, sustained, tore, wore, subverted, and resisted by the actors involved. Our panel consists of five papers, covering a wide geographic distribution, including Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey. Paper 1 scrutinizes the cybersecurity postures of Iranian state banks to analyze the crucial question of vulnerability and security in contemporary online banking systems. Paper 2 compares two railway lines—Izmir-Aydın and Izmir-Kasaba—to explores the multiplicity of agencies manifested in the production of railway spaces within the Ottoman Empire. Paper 3 examines the transnational legal controversy that resulted from the physical destruction of the Beirut Holiday Inn following the close of the Lebanese Civil War. Paper 4 investigates how invisible cholera bacteria took advantage of the increasing mobility from railways to travel from Upper Egypt to the populous Nile Delta during the 1895 pandemic. Paper 5 considers the centrality of cement to the formation of a national sociotechnical imaginary of development in post-Protectorate Morocco


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Juan Cole

(University of Michigan)
Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is author of Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires (Bold Type, 2018); The New Arabs (Simon & Schuster, 2014); Engaging the Muslim World...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Tessa Farmer

(University of Virginia)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Zachary Cuyler

(New York University)
Zachary Cuyler is a recent graduate of Georgetown's MA program in Arab Studies. His research interests include technopolitics and the history of energy and infrastructure in Lebanon and Syria. He is currently contributing a chapter based on his MA thesis...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter; Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Xiaoyue Li

(University of Michigan)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Elvan Cobb

(Hong Kong Baptist University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;