In this article we review the most recent literature on infrastructure in the social sciences and show its relevance for the study of Highland Asia. We consider the spatial, scalar, and temporal aspects of construction and, in so doing, develop new conceptual tools to evaluate the social and political configurations of states and citizens in some particularly “out of the way places.” Importantly, we show that many of the large-scale development interventions planned throughout the region defy the “backgroundness” and “infra-ness” normally associated with the term infrastructure. On the contrary, we argue that these new highways, dams, railroads, and the like are highly conspicuous, both visually and discursively. Long before their actual construction starts, such projects already work as a purported promise for future prosperity and connectivity and lend legitimacy to “the state” in areas historically difficult to access and hard to govern.
The co-editors convened in Munich in spring and summer 2017 in order to prepare the manuscript for publication.