Trains, Infrastructure, Borderlands

Two separate newspaper articles about cost-cutting, revenue increases, and efficiency on trains caught my attention recently. There was one on the loss of the platzkart, the third-class sleeper car on Russian trains, and another on the loss of the pantry car on Indian trains. This, paired with more cuts on other long-distance services, such as the night train from Amsterdam to Copenhagen that my partner and I always wanted to take, I headed over to the news section of one of my favorite train travel sites, The Man in Seat 61, who is the guru of all things train-related. It’s not all doom and gloom; there are reports of a Peru route being reinstated, Vietnamese Railways introducing online bookings, Ljubljana-Venice reopening. It would be nice if someone could do a time lapse map of all these route openings, closings, and re-openings.

Speaking of transport, logistics, and capital, I’ve been completely mesmerized by Charmaine Chua’s fabulous container ship ethnography blog series. Also, Cultural Anthropology (happily Open Access now) has put up all sorts of pieces on writing about and researching infrastructure, so I feel like my latest interests are moving with the times. I’m also seeing so many great CFPs for infrastructure and borders (as well as infrastructure and temporality) panels at the upcoming AAG 2016. Unfortunately, it’s in the middle of a massive teaching load for me next year, so I can’t attend. Someone report back for me, please.

Our next (already the 5th!) Asian Borderlands Conference (theme: Dynamic Borderlands: Livelihoods, Communities, and Flows) will be held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 12-14 December 2016, in conjunction with Social Science Baha, a fine organisation that has done a lot for critical social science in Nepal over the past few years. I haven’t returned since the earthquake, but have been in touch with several colleagues and friends — these have been intense and trying times for many. The latest border/geopolitical news, as explained in this Washington Post article, involves a new (discriminatory) constitution, blockades at the southern border with India, fuel shortages as a consequence, and questions about the future role of the Kyirong (Tibet-Nepal) border reopening.

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