Transportation and Change through an Anthropological Lens


  • Mari H. Clarke



This paper provides a broad overview of anthropological research on roads and transport as a prelude and context for the other papers in this themed issue. The paper begins with a short historical overview of anthropological approaches to roads and transportation. Then it offers a case study on how roads both facilitated and reflected major socio-economic changes in Methana, Greece, reflecting change in the broader context of Greece society. Next, it describes applied social analysis approaches to the design of roads that emerged from the World Bank and related organizations. Finally, it explores the current flowering of anthropological research on roads, which encompasses technopolitical, political ecology, spatial, and semiotic analyses.  A second case study describes efforts to build a “culture” of inclusive road stewardship through a World Bank financed rural roads project in Vietnam. The paper concludes by reflecting on possible future directions for transport anthropology, which offers strategic opportunities to influence large infrastructure investments, transport policy, and anthropological theory.

Author Biography

Mari H. Clarke

Mari H. Clarke is a World Bank Senior Gender Consultant and has worked with the World Bank on gender and transport since FY2005. She is a member of the World Bank task team for the Vietnam Local Road Asset Management Program and the inclusion team of Global Water Practice. In 2015, she received the Praxis Award for excellence in the application of anthropological theory and practice for her work in Vietnam. She managed a support project for the USAID Office of Private and Voluntary Cooperation and led a project supporting the US-Egyptian Education Partnership. She also worked with the US Agency for International Development, Office of Women and Development, for eight years. She served as President of the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists and Secretary of the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology. She has a PhD in Economic Anthropology and a M.Ed. in Instructional Design from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


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