Ghostly infrastructures, Fractured temporalities

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The politics of internet infrastructure in northern Chhattisgarh

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In this talk, I will argue that internet infrastructure such as such as biometric identification, zero balance bank accounts, phone numbers and direct cash transfers have been crucial to a new architecture of control in India. Over the years, sophisticated satellites in conjunction with institutions such as National Green Tribunal and legislative classification of the land into flora and fauna, bio-diverse and fringe have epistemically reconfigured the region into categories more amenable to extraction rather than the flourishing of life. Situated in the specificity of northern Chhattisgarh, two other major factors that come into play are that this region is dominated by adivasi settlements and that the soil is rich with coal reserves that represent a steady source of future revenue for state and central government as well as prime sites of profit for big capital. Often in such situations, at a macro (e.g. mining) or micro level (e.g. water supply in a village), what we see is infrastructures enabling a mode of procedural control where there is no space for negotiation at an interpersonal, collective or political route. Instead control is already exerted in advance through banal procedures put in place by infrastructures. Faced with such procedural control, Adivasis respond in different ways which I categorise as cruel optimism and social haunting.

Ram Bhat is a co-founder of Maraa, a media and arts collective in India, and a fellow at the Media and Comm Dept at LSE. He is also serving as the President of the Asia Pacific branch of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), a global network of community broadcasters founded in 1983. His current research interests are to do with theorising the role of communicative infrastructure in processes of governmentality and subjectivation in India and thus broader implications for lower and middle income countries in the Global South. He has also worked with governments on community media, digitalisation and spectrum allocation policies in India and other countries in Asia Pacific.

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