After World War II, large infrastructural projects in the Global South like dams, canals, roads, electric power stations, and water pipes were associated with ideas of development, progress, and modernity. These projects promised to modernize a supposedly backward population, with a fast-tracked path to status as an idealized developed country. The colonial roots of these promises were aided by the visual spectacle and transformative nature of large infrastructures, used to demonstrate the superiority of western colonizing powers. Decades into this well-trodden postcolonial developmentalist path, the myopic hubris of this infrastructural promise is being gradually exposed.
Nausheen Anwar (Professor, City & Regional Planning, Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts, IBA, Karachi, Pakistan) and Nikhil Anand (Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, USA) study infrastructural projects in two postcolonial contexts—Pakistan and India, respectively. On October 18, 2019, I sat down with them to discuss the impact of infrastructures on local environments, the reproduction of social difference along infrastructural lines, the possibility of environmental justice, and their work as both scholars and activists in Karachi and Mumbai.