Ed Simpson (School of Oriental and African Studies, London) gave a talk on Friday 1. March 2019 titled “State Highway 31: A road trip through the heart of modern India“.
This talk follows the route of State Highway 31 through western Madhya Pradesh, central India. The research was part of a larger project looking at the ideas behind the production of infrastructure in South Asia. This journey takes us through landscapes of sex work and opium, some of the oldest nationalist networks in the country, and along the fault-lines of long-running tensions between local communities. The road was one of a series built as a public private partnership and, as such, speaks of the reconfiguration of state relations with private capital and business. Toll booths become places of company ethos, education and for the creation of new kinds of citizens. The nexus of government and private enterprise takes us on a dizzying journey through the world’s tax havens and onto the decks of luxury yachts. Exploring the broader political economy of the road and the organisation of institutions and travellers that sustain it encourages questions about the nature of governance and power in the country.