Configurations of “remoteness” (CoRe) - Entanglements of Humans and Transportation Infrastructure in the Baykal-Amur Mainline (BAM) Region

The Arctic and Subarctic have gained a surprising amount of attention in recent years. What used to be the ‘remote’ backwaters of global economic and political currents has morphed into a new frontier of geopolitics, resource extraction, and developmental designs. New transportation infrastructure often plays a critical role in these transformations. But its effects – accessibility, the shrinking of social and physical distance, the increased speed of connection – are not uncontested. On the one hand, those for whom ‘remoteness’ has been an asset, are often among the opponents of such developments. New transportation infrastructures are often not built to make the lives of local residents easier but to move cargo from point A to point B. Thus, there are ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of such infrastructural developments.

Our key research question, therefore, is: Given the technosocial entanglement of people and infrastructure, how do changes in remote transportation systems affect human sociality and mobility?

CoRe is located in North Asia, at the junction of eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East. We call the area the BAM region because it is defined by the Baykal-Amur Mainline (BAM) railroad and its sidetracks. In that region there are pockets with a long history of industrial development and resource extraction, while many parts of the area have been little affected by Soviet and post-Soviet modernization efforts. Current attempts to revitalize, improve and extend the railway Network serve as the backdrop for our project.



On June 13 Olga Povoroznyuk gave invited talk “(Post)Soviet Infrastructure: Identity Building and the Politics of Emotion in the Region of Baykal-Amur Mainline (BAM) in East Siberia” at the Graduate School of East and South East European Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.


The photo exhibition “Picturing the BAM” curated by Olga Povoroznyuk and Peter Schweitzer was opened at the University of Vienna's department for social and cultural anthropology on June 3, 2019.


CoRe-team member Sigrid Schiesser presenats her study of built environment in Sakha Republic in the University of Vienna's on-line magazine uni:view (in German language)


Peter Schweitzer, Olga Povoroznyuk, Gerti Saxinger, Natalia Krasnoshtanova and Alexis Sancho-Reinoso presented a CoRe-based paper on social science perspectives on studying infrastructures in the Arctic at the interdisciplinary workshop “Rapid Arctic Transitions due to Infrastructure and Climate”...


Olga Povoroznyuk gave a presentation of the joint paper (with Peter Schweitzer) "A Right to Remoteness? A Missing Bridge and Articulations of Indigeneity along an East Siberian Railroad” at the 14th International SIEF Congress in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. April 15, 2019


In April 2019, Sigrid Irene Schiesser gave three lectures in Russian language at the North-Eastern Federal University (SVFU) in Yakutsk, Russian Federation about her Ph.D. project "Constructing buildings - constructing identities: Making of contemporary Sakha architecture"