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.



Olga Povoroznyuk conducted comparative field study in the BAM city of Neryungri and indigenous village Iengra in south Yakutiya in July 2019. More details are to come in her field report.


Olga Povoroznyuk and Peter Schweitzer hosted panel "Transport Infrastructures in the System of Communication and Social Relations in the North" at the XIII Congress of Anthropologists and Ethnologists of Russia, 2 - 6 of July, Kazan, Russia


Peter Schweitzer gave presentation "Mobility and Communication in the Circumpolar North: Toward an Anthropology of Transportation Infrastructure" as one of keynote speakers at the XIII Congress of Anthropologists and Ethnologists of Russia in Kazan, Russia, July 2 - 6, 2019


CoRe-team members Olga Povoroznyuk and Ilya Krylov contributed to the on-line course "Discovering Russia: Baikal-Amur Mainline" by the popular humanities project "Arzamas" (in Russian language)


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.