Crumbling Infrastructure: Archaeological Perspectives

Author(s): Steve Kosiba

Year: 2018


Recently, the term "infrastructure" has gained a remarkable degree of traction in both academic and political discourses. Politicians, from the left and right, bemoan what they term "crumbling infrastructure," offering fixes by way of material and technological improvements to roads, waterways, cities, and energy grids. Scholars draw on and expand posthumanist theories to analyze and expose how infrastructure does not just passively support social aims, but actively shapes (and subverts) human intentions. These discussions sharpen focus on the material characteristics and necessities of infrastructure, but frequently neglect to equally take into account the ideological mechanisms—processes of labor coordination, perceptions of progress, or projects for sustainable ecology—that are essential to and inseparable from infrastructure. With this paper, I ask how archaeologists, with their unique ability to record and interpret long-term socio-material processes, might add to such discussions of infrastructure. I argue that "crumbling infrastructure" is a misnomer because it defines infrastructure as fixed materials rather than fluid entities that are parts of broader assemblages comprising things, people, and ideas. I present data from Cusco, Peru, during early Spanish colonization to examine the interwoven ideologies and materials that can bring infrastructure into being, and relegate it to ruin.

Cite this Record

Crumbling Infrastructure: Archaeological Perspectives. Steve Kosiba. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444887)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -82.441; min lat: -56.17 ; max long: -64.863; max lat: 16.636 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21096