The RSA Research Network on Infrastructural Regionalisms (NOIR) engages research at the intersection of infrastructure and regional studies. By placing the region at the center of the ‘infrastructural turn’, the Network reflects both the increased conceptual, geographic, and political importance of infrastructure and the endemic crises of access (social space), expertise (technology), and resources (governance) that varied provision of infrastructures within regions can cause. NOIR offers multiple forums to debate the terrains of regional infrastructure, develop collaborative research projects, and facilitate meaningful dialogue between academics and practitioners.
Infrastructural regionalisms will focus on those infrastructures that have relevance beyond the local. Analyzing regions through infrastructure provides a novel perspective on the regional question as investment and disinvestment in infrastructure reveals vital discursive and material elements that produce, structure, and modify metropolitan regions worldwide. The development of infrastructural assets – ranging from transport and telecommunications to energy and sanitation – as part of regional policies raises fundamental questions about how the funding, governance, and spatiality of such infrastructure can promote urban, economic, and ecological sustainability at the regional scale. NOIR brings infrastructure to the forefront of innovative, interdisciplinary, and multi-scalar research on metropolitan regions to determine how regions are constructed, territorialized, governed, and experienced.
Given the emerging interdisciplinary interests in infrastructure and the need for versatile comparative theoretical scholarship, NOIR focuses on four key themes, each of which raises a number of conceptual and applied questions:
- Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Regional Infrastructure: How do we study, and thus produce knowledge of, infrastructure? The RSA Research Network will draw together established and emerging regional scholars from a variety of disciplinary vantage points to define the conceptual and empirical parameters of infrastructural regionalisms. From a practical perspective, we seek to construct an evaluative toolkit for cross-sectoral policy learning about regional infrastructures.
- Infrastructure and Regional Governance: Regional affairs are negotiated and organized through diverse formal and informal mechanisms. Yet, there is only a limited understanding about how diverse stakeholders coordinate interests and policies in and across regional ‘spaces’. NOIR critically assesses how infrastructure helps to produce regional governance structures by engaging scholars whose work addresses questions who is represented in infrastructure decision-making, how competing interests are mediated, and what complexities can undermine/empower regional partnerships. By determining how decisions on infrastructures are made, we seek to explain their impact on communities.
- Seeing Like a Region: The territoriality and relationality of regions defies simple transfer of either the spatial or ontological politics proscribed by seeing ‘like a state’ or ‘like a city’. Finding coherence within the ‘fuzziness’ of regional space requires alternative techniques of spatialization and political modalities. NOIR members ask who can ‘see regionally’, what it means to ‘see like a region’, and how engaging with infrastructure issues shapes regional imaginaries.
- Infrastructure and Regional Lives: The ability to produce and claim ‘the region’ is the product of a contested spatial politics; regional spaces are highly uneven, with infrastructures representing the filaments that link parts of the region together in often tenuous ways. Regional space is also experienced differently by diverse social groups, often in partial and ‘splintered’ fragmented ways. NOIR explores the everyday experiences of regional infrastructure by assessing how they mediate global flows and lived experiences.
2023 RSA Annual Conference Special Sessions
NOIR is proud to be one of the 2023 RSA Annual Conference partners and supporters.
2023 RSA Annual Conference “Transforming Regions: Policies and Planning for People and Places” – Ljubljana, Slovenia – 14 June 2023
The Regional Studies Association’s Annual Conference 2023 #RSA23 will be our largest knowledge exchange and networking gathering in 2023. It is being held in partnership with the School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. This four-day conference brings together academics and policymakers to exchange news, views and research findings from the fields of regional studies and science, regional and economic development, policy and planning. There will be representation from around 50 different global territories as we gather both established experts and early career researchers in the beautiful city of Ljubljana.
As part of the 2023 RSA Annual Conference, there will be a number of Special Sessions running throughout the academic programme. The RSA Research Network on Infrastructural Regionalisms (NOIR) has organised SS34: Regional Infrastructure and Infrastructural Regionalism: Contexts, Concepts, and Cases
This special session both assesses work at the intersection of infrastructure and regional studies and will help chart future directions for research on ‘infrastructural regionalism’ (Addie, Glass, and Nelles, 2020; Glass, Addie, and Nelles, 2019). Infrastructure is fundamental for the production of regions. Regardless of the region in question, infrastructure forms the foundation of urban and regional development in material and discursive terms. Infrastructures including highways, airports, bridges, transit systems, pipelines, sewers, and fibre optic cables are more than banal or apolitical engineered artefacts. Rather, they are the central elements that make the urban possible in its myriad forms. Calls to open the ‘black box’ of infrastructure are a major concern for urban and regional scholars, both as a focus for empirical research (i.e., examining socio-technological networks within and between cities or, disclosing regional development logics) and as a methodological orientation (exploring socio-natures, risks, and disruptions). Indeed, analysing regions through infrastructure provides a novel perspective on the regional question as investment and disinvestment in infrastructure reveals vital discursive and material elements that produce, structure, and modify metropolitan regions worldwide.
We welcome papers engaging research at the intersection of urban infrastructure and regional studies broadly considered, with the aim of (non-exhaustively) interrogating:
• How do we study, and thus produce knowledge of, regions through infrastructure?
• How are decisions on infrastructure made and regionalized?
• Who develops regional infrastructural visions and how are their spatial imaginaries legitimized?
• What technologies of power and infrastructure arrangements concretize the region?
• What types of infrastructure are more amenable to/successful at the regional scale?
• Who benefits, and is excluded, from regional infrastructural formations?
• In what ways do state and non-state actors adopt a regional infrastructure politics?
• How do infrastructure issues shape regional imaginaries and interpolate regional political subjects?
• How can key actors shift from producing an infrastructural region ‘in itself’ to a region ‘for itself’?
• How are the dynamics of ‘power over’ and ‘power to’ articulated through regional infrastructural politics?
Addie, J.-P.D., Glass, M.R., and Nelles, J. (2020). Regionalizing the infrastructure turn: A research agenda. Regional Studies, Regional Science, 7(1), 10-26.
Glass, M.R., Addie, J.-P.D., and Nelles, J. (2019). Regional infrastructures, infrastructural regionalism. Regional Studies, 53(12), 1651-1656.
Conference and Submission
Please send abstracts (250 words) to the session organizers by 14 February 2023. You can submit your abstract to the conference portal, indicating that you are joining SS34, until the 14th March 2023 through this link: https://lounge.regionalstudies.org/Meetings/Meeting?ID=413.
This session is sponsored by the RSA Research Network on Infrastructural Regionalism (NOIR). Thanks to the support of the RSA, NOIR is able to offer several travel bursaries of up to £500 for early career researchers, graduate students, and/or participants from band B/C/D countries to support attendance and presentation at the conference. Please contact the session organisers if you wish to be considered for a NOIR bursary when submitting your abstract.
Jen Nelles, Oxford Brookes University email@example.com
Michael Glass, University of Pittsburgh firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean-Paul Addie, Georgia State University email@example.com.
Click here for more information on the 2023 RSA Annual Conference “Transforming Regions: Policies and Planning for People and Places” Ljubljana, Slovenia
14 June 2023.
NOIR Events (2019-2022)
- Pre-launch panel 1 (April 2019): Pushing the Boundaries of Regional Infrastructure: The DC Region in Focus, Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Washington DC, USA
- Pre-launch panel 2 (April 2019): Pushing the Boundaries of Regional Infrastructure: The Los Angeles Region in Focus, Urban Affairs Association Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- Event 1 (September 2019): Network Launch and Special Sessions on Defining the Terrains of Regional Infrastructure, Regional Studies Association North American Conference, Montreal QC, Canada – see call for papers here.
- Event 2 (April 2020) NOIR Workshop Infrastructure of the Governance of Regions, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA, USA
- Event 3 (September 2020): NOIR Junior-Senior Scholar Symposium: The Region through Infrastructure: Politics and Practice, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA
- Event 4 (April 2021): Special Sessions: The Infrastructural Lives of Regions, Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Detroit, MI, USA
Click the link to read about the NOIR Water Infrastructure & Regional Governance Workshop
Click the link to watch a video of the NOIR plenary session at the 2022 RSA Regions in Recovery Global e-Festival (second edition).
The RSA Research Network on Infrastructural Regionalism is all about infrastructure’s place in our regional worlds and our capacity to shape our regions through its function and symbolism. We have a number of plans for networking, collaboration, and publications beyond the Networks formal events. If you are interested in joining NOIR, or would like further information, please contact reach Jean-Paul, Jen, and Michael at Infrastructural.Regionalism@gmail.com. You can also follow NOIR on Twitter (@NOIR_RSA).
More information on the Network on Infrastructural Regionalism can be found at the NOIR website.