This project offers an exciting opportunity for two outstanding graduates to join a major anthropological research project funded by the European Research Council – as part of the conventional track PhD in Anthropology at SOAS. The project is focused on contemporary road-building projects as infrastructure in South Asia. The overarching aim of the project is to explore the relationship between infrastructure investment and global sustainability through research on the politics and dynamics of particular road-building schemes.

New roads are being constructed at unprecedented rates in certain parts of the world. The proposed research will ask: Why? To what end? Who benefits? What ideas lie in the foundations of this new infrastructure? Roads are presented as solutions to poverty, ‘development’ and economic growth. Are they? In what ways? What else might roads do? As cheap oil dwindles and questions of climate change remain, why are so many international institutions cultivating new roads?

The project will provide the first ethnographic account of the culture of road builders, their knowledge practices, interrelations and motivations. The research will be rooted in case studies of particular road projects in Pakistan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. These sites have been selected to bring to the fore how nation-building, neo-liberalism, ambition, environmental vulnerability and modernity feature in contemporary road-building. We will look at the organisation of road building on the ground, in offices, and within a broader array of institutions and state bodies in national and international contexts in order to understand the global cultures of road-building practice.

Deadline: April 24

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