Transportation and Change through an Anthropological Lens
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.
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