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The Roads (Not) Taken: The Materiality, Poetics and Politics of Infrastructure in Manipur, India

Vibha Arora and Raile Rocky Ziipao

Journal of South Asian Development, 2020, vol. 15, issue 1, 34-61

Abstract: Roads are bitumen covered concrete metaphors of modernity and development, and they materially represent fantasies, collective hopes, and aspirations of future(s). They symbolize movement, connectivity, transactions and transportation, and eminently reflect governmentality. Our article is about Manipur’s connective infrastructures, and it focuses on internal roads, and a border highway that connects Imphal (Manipur’s capital city) to Dimapur at Nagaland in North-east India. We explain the infrastructural deficit within Manipur and decision-making about them being influenced by a hill-valley socio-ecological ethnic distributional conflict. The road links and is part of the uneven development route. We provide an ethnographic account of a truck journey undertaken between Imphal and Dimapur in 2018, and this enables us to understand routinized corruption and the collusion of state and non-state actors therein. The road is the symbol of hope, and a developmental desire, and epitomizes state’s governmentality and developmental project of progress, nonetheless it also gets transformed into the central locale of political protest, ethnic conflict when ethnic groups appropriate it forcibly to erect blockades and organize protests in its arterial space. The roads and highways spatially produce and reproduce (il)legality, (il)legibility, and (il)legitimacy of the Indian state. Our ethnographic research unpacks and invokes the multivalence of roads.

Keywords: Development; infrastructure; political sociology; India; Manipur (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1177/0973174119896470

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