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.



Peter Schweitzer, Olga Povoroznyuk in collaboration with Stephanie MacCallum convened the panel “Revisiting railroads: Sociality, Mobility and Infrastructure” on November 18, 2018 at the Annual Meeting of American Anthropological Association in San Jose, California.


In summer semester 2018, Peter Schweitzer and Olga Povoroznyuk taught a CoRe-related MA course “Social Life of Roads and Railroads” at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology


Olga Povoroznyuk presented a Core paper at the workshop "Siberia: Infrastructure and Environment” held at Indiana University Europe Gateway in Berlin.


CoRe team hosted an internal workshop with their partner project from European University (St. Petersburg) “Northern Sea Route Meets the BAM, or How to Study Transportation Infrastructures” on September 24 in Vienna.


CoRe-team organised panel "Human entanglements with infrastructures: mobility, sociality, and the built environment” at Vienna Anthropology Days on September 21.


Olga Povoroznyuk, Stephanie MacCallum and Peter Schweitzer convened a panel on railroads at the conference of European Association of Social Anthropologists.