Thinking Infrastructures in Global Asia: New Perspectives and Approaches

Infrastructures, in anthropologist Brian Larkin’s (2013) opt-cited definition, “are matter that enable the movement of other matter” and “the relation between things.” From hardware (such as railways, pipes, dams, and telecommunication networks) to multiscalar structures that condition the production of aforementioned hardware (including architectural blueprints, computational languages, digital platforms, and electromagnetic waves), infrastructures have served as an important object and analytical lens for scholars to understand the historical transformations of societies in terms of circulation, mobility, and connectivity. This working group aims to facilitate new conversations and collaborations among scholars and students who are interested in adopting the lens of infrastructure to study Asia in global contexts. Across various disciplines and the tri-campus of the University of Toronto, we gather as a group to reflect upon the possibilities and limits that the recent “infrastructural turn” in the humanities and social sciences can bring to the production, circulation, and transformation of knowledge about Asia in its global dynamics. Moving beyond the popular and instrumental understanding of infrastructures as a means to modernity, we seek to draw attention to the agency of infrastructures and their power of world-making. Such an intervention is urgent as it enables us to not only historicize Asia’s emergence as a site of global infrastructure production and capital circulation and accumulation. It also helps illuminate how infrastructures and their contestations can sustain and remake lifeworlds in Asia, both in material and immaterial, human and non-human dimensions. By putting infrastructures and global Asia in relational terms, we aim to contribute new perspectives and approaches to academic debates on racism, modernity, de/coloniality, materialism, and environmentalism.


  • Julie Yujie Chen, UTM Institute of Culture, Communication, Information & Technology
  • Sabrina Teng-io Chung, Ph.D. cand., East Asian Studies
  • Qi Hong, Ph.D. student, East Asian Studies
  • Hongyun Lyu, Ph.D. cand., History


Faculty, University of Toronto

  • Yi Gu, UTSC Arts, Culture & Media
  • Tong Lam, UTM Historical Studies
  • Yurou Zhong, A&S East Asian Studies

Graduate Students, University of Toronto

  • Taro Zheming Cai, Daniels Faculty of Architecture
  • Alex Kachun Wong, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design

Winter 2024 Meetings

(Faculty, Students and the community are welcome to attend)

  • January 26, 4-6 pm (Robarts Library, Room 14228). Graduate Reading Session II: Infrastructure and Waste. RSVP
  • February 9, 2-4 pm (Jackman Humanities Building, 100a). New Book Talk, Life Beyond Waste: Work and Infrastructure in Urban Pakistan (Stanford U, 2023) by Prof. Waqas Butt. RSVP | More info
  • February 16, 4-6 pm (Robarts Library, Room 14228). Graduate reading session III: Infrastructure and Sound: Questions and Methodologies (RL14228). RSVP