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.
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
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).