CfP: Shaping the Periphery, Enabling Movement – Infrastructure in the Caucasus from the Early 19th Century to the Late Soviet Period

Helena Holzberger Announcement
Subject Fields
Area Studies, Borderlands, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Russian or Soviet History / Studies

Organizers: Arpine Maniero (Collegium Carolinum e.V., Munich) and Helena Holzberger (Russia-Asia Studies, LMU, Munich)

Location: Yerevan State University / Yerevan (Armenia)

supported by: Max Weber Foundation, the Faculty of History of Yerevan State University and the American University of Armenia, Instigate CSJC


Date: 03.10.2023 – 06.10.2023

Deadline for Proposal: 01.05.2023

Infrastructure has played a crucial role in all empires as a way to access, administrate and control the peripheries, but also to integrate them. By developing infrastructure, the political center promised to supply material goods, security, and knowledge to these regions; at the same time, this infrastructure was also used to to project imperial military power. From the local perspective, building infrastructures, such as railroads or transportation routes, was essential to the functioning of a region, because they increased the movement of people and goods and made these flows more efficient. Infrastructure enabled peripheral regions to connect to the world and participate in a contemporaneous modernity, both culturally and global-economically.

Yet infrastructures are more than just an instrument of access and control. Following Brian Larkin, we understand infrastructures not only as forms of technical functioning but also as semiotic and aesthetic vehicles. They can shape subjects through mobilization of affect and desire and therefore have an additional political impact.

By examining the development of infrastructure in the greater region of North and South Caucasus, long a border zone between the Russian, Ottoman and Persian empires, we can increase our understanding of regional development, power relations, and intraregional interactions, as well as conflicts, violence, and peace processes. The consideration of a relatively long period makes it possible to elaborate long-term effects of infrastructural development like the formation of political, economic, social, and cultural spaces. Our focus is not only on specific construction projects and their implementation, but in a wider sense the overlapping and diverging visions of those in the center and local actors regarding how to shape the Caucasus economically and politically․

We ask the following: How have infrastructures created, shaped, structured, connected and changed the North and South Caucasus from the early modern era to the late Soviet period? To what extent has the construction, demolition, and reuse of infrastructures been influenced by the expansion and contraction of empires? How has the development of infrastructure challenged, altered, or destroyed existing notions of economic, political, national, and geographic spaces?

We invite proposals from scholars in the fields of history, geography, economic history, sociology, ethnology, anthropology, environmental history, and historical demography who focus on areas that were under Russian rule or interacted with them.

Topics may relate (but are not limited) to the following fields:


  1. Infrastructure and Migration
  2. The construction and operation of infrastructure
  3. Socio-Cultural and Anthropological infrastructure
  4. Trans-imperial / transnational infrastructure
  5. Infrastructure connecting Sea and Land
  6. Infrastructure and environment


The conference contributions are intended to serve as the basis for a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal to bring together and highlight new work in this area. An additional purpose of the conference is to strengthen the connections between Western scholars and their colleagues from the Caucasian countries. Scholars of the Russian Empire and USSR have often relied heavily on documentation held in the former center; however, Russia's attack on Ukraine has blocked access to the archives in both these countries. These events have reminded Western researchers of the importance of the archives in other post-Soviet countries and the new perspectives these materials offer. In the interests of decolonized scholarship, we see the conference as an opportunity to build future collaborations with local researchers.

Accomodation and travel expances up to a limited amount will be covered.


Deadline for submission of abstract (max. 500 words) and CV: 1 May 2023 to and


Contact Information

Helena Holzberger

Contact Email