"Roads and Walls: Concrete Histories" Conference Date and Location [UPDATED INFO!]

"Roads and Walls: Concrete Histories" will be held at the Merrill Cultural Center on the campus of UC-Santa Cruz on Friday, MARCH 3rd, 2006. Visitor parking will be available for $3 per car at the base of campus, at the Barn Theatre; a shuttle van will take commuters up to the Merrill Cultural Center until 11 AM.

We are excited to announce that "Midnight University"--a more informal exploration of the social life of objects--will convene the evening of March 3rd, from 9 pm til all is said and done. PLEASE READ ABOUT IT BELOW!

We are also very pleased to announce that Professors Marisol de la Cadena (Anthropology, UC-Davis), James Ferguson (Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford) and Kathleen Stewart (Anthropology, UT-Austin) have agreed to join us as discussants for the conference. See schedule below.

"Roads and Walls: Concrete Histories" is sponsored by the UCSC Anthropology Department; the Center for Tropical Research in Ecology, Agriculture, and Development (CenTREAD); the Center for Cultural Studies; the Center for Global, International, and Regional Studies (CGIRs); the Institute for Advanced Feminist Research (IAFR); and the departments of Environmental Studies, Feminist Studies, History of Art and Visual Culture, and Sociology.

Conference Schedule

9:00-9:15a Welcome and Introduction, Jeremy Campbell (UCSC, Anthropology)

Session 1. In-Built: Spatialized Practices of Identity
9.20a Megan Moodie (UCSC, Anthropology), Pukka Walls, Kaccha Identities: Building Dhanka Basti in Jaipur, India
9.40a Abigail Sone (Toronto, Anthropology), Sign Language: Navigating the New Trans-Israel Highway
10.00a Yen-Ling Tsai (UCSC, Anthropology), Pintu Reformasi, Gates of Reform, and the Social Reproduction of Walls in Indonesia
10:20a Liza Grandia (Berkeley, Anthropology), The Infrastructure Trickle-Down: Roads, the Puebla-to-Panama-Plan, and the Q’eqchi’ Maya in the Northern Maya Lowlands
10:40-11:20a Discussion from Marisol de la Cadena (Davis) & q/a

11:30-12:20p Box Lunch for presenters and discussants.
Please remember to visit the poster presentations in the Merrill Cultural Center during breaks!

Session 2. Affective Transits: Histories, Performances, Itineraries
12.20p Sasha Welland (UCSC, Anthropology), Opening The Great Wall
12.40p Ryan Chaney (Columbia, Anthropology), Appalachian Routes: Music, Landscape, and Heritage Tourism in Southwestern Virginia
1.00p Bettina Stoetzer (UCSC, Anthropology), On Ghosts, Sunflower Seeds, and a Museum of Walls: A City Tour in Berlin.
1.20p Natalle Zappia (UCSC, History), Indigenous Borderlands: The Inter-regional Trading Networks of the California Interior
1.40p John Marlovitz (UCSC, Anthropology), The Madness of Skid Row
2.00-2.40p Discussion from Kathleen Stewart (Texas) & q/a

2.40-2.50p Coffee Break.

Session 3. Into the Street: Sites of Future-Struggle
2.50p Julie Brugger (Washington, Anthropology), “Road Wars” in the Rural American West
3.10p Kirsten Brown (Toronto, Anthropology), Road Promise: The Politics of an Imaginary Road in Rural Indonesia
3.30p Caroline Simmonds (Yale, Forestry), Walking Well: The Social Landscape of the Bakili Muluzi Highway, Malawi
3.50p Doreen Lee (Cornell, Anthropology), Descending to the Streets: Kronologi and the Mapping of Activist Histories in Jakarta, Indonesia
4.10p Chris Brown (Washington, Anthropology), Circulation and Freedom on a Javanese Street
4.30-5.10p Discussion from James Ferguson (Stanford) & q/a

5:10-6:00p Plenary Discussion, facilitated by Don Brenneis (UCSC)

9:00p-1:00a Midnight University, “Talking Objects, Moving Forms” @ Kresge Town Hall, Kresge College


"Roads and Walls: Concrete Histories" Conference Rationale

Roads structure both licit and illicit traffic. Roads are the arteries of empire—and flat, open places for ball games. Roads destroy forests, and they guide personal quests. Roads bring us to the crossroads of science and desire; they offer us vantage points to see the rise and fall of kingdoms, colonies, nations, and empires. Roads run into walls. Walls mark the borders of territories; they guard the privacy of property and women’s purity; they make safe and secure spaces. Walls cordon off disciplines and diseases; their barriers are essential to human biology and academic analysis. Roads and walls both offer the charisma of powerful objects—but, more than other objects, they take us into the heart of questions that matter in social and cultural theory today. They are both concrete and abstract designs for power, and for everyday life. They show us where geopolitics and family values are mutually formed. They confront us with the intertwined intimacies of industrial and vernacular design.

Using the ability of roads and walls to speak to questions that matter, we propose a graduate student conference on the social histories of roads and walls. We are looking for papers in which concrete histories of particular roads and walls open abstract questions of power and knowledge. We seek papers from every disciplinary and subdisciplinary perspective; however, the papers should address a core audience of anthropologists. The conference will consider how histories of these strategic objects can enrich social and cultural theory—and our knowledge of the world.

If social theory in the 1990s was dominated by questions of global integration, the new century has opened to questions of geopolitical hegemony and difference. One advantage of these new questions is that they take us back to ancient empires and their hinterlands as well as to emerging models of the future; they require our attention to religion, hierarchy, and embedded custom, as well as market flows. Social histories of roads and walls offer an exemplary model of the new scholarship that we believe is needed. Alert to both the past and the present, both difference and interconnection, and both the abstract and the concrete, roads and walls show us how the architecture of social life forms and reforms us.

We seek provocative, insightful and historically and materially grounded papers that take up these questions for a one-day, intimate symposium at the Department of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz. Senior scholars from across the nation and across the disciplines will comment upon the papers and convene discussions.

Midnight University: "Talking Objects, Moving Forms"


The graduate students of the anthropology department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, invite submissions for an evening of intellectual dialogue and innovative expression about the material and imagined lives of objects.


Connected to and inspired by a graduate student conference “Roads and Walls: Concrete Histories” to be held the same day at UCSC, “Talking Objects, Moving Forms” will provide a chance for students at all stages of the graduate school process to share ideas about the world of things.


This world is not stable, but constantly in motion. We might think of the presentation of objects as a station–-a moment of suspended animation--in an unpredictable swirl of places and histories. What stations can we visit? What forms can our suspension take?


Please join us for a provocative evening of academic performances, dances, photography, film, and reflection.

Friday, March 3rd. 9:00 PM. Kresge Town Hall, UCSC.

Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas on Ranches;
Nina Schnall on Couches;
Phil Steinberg on Vehicles & Bulidings;
Steve Nava on Postcards;
Megan Moodie on Bandages;
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez on Bones;
Lauren Szczesny-Pumarada on a Factory;
Julia Elizabeth Lonergan on Ruins and Petroglyphs;
Aviva Sinervo on Tourist Snapshots;
Bahiyyih Watson on Streets, Signs, and Finite Walls;
Heath Cabot on Paper;
Jeremy Campbell on Guano;
Anna Shneiderman & Hilary Hayes on Mirrors;
Julia Crothers on Boxes;
Charles Hall on Houses;
Teseo Fournier West on Stamps


1: Unpaved BR-163, through the South-Central Brazilian Amazon, at the cusp of the Soy Frontier.
2. Nixon at the Great Wall of China.
3. Memorial Wall, Arizona, USA.


1: The Junction of I-10 and I-110, Los Angeles County, USA
2: The Qalqilya Wall, Palestine.
3: The portion of I-8 that runs along the Border Fence, San Diego County, USA.