Multispecies Infrastructure: Infrastructural Inversion and Involutionary Entanglements in the Chao Phraya Delta, Thailand

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Friday, November 28th, 2014

Friday, November 28, 201412:00PM - 2:00PM208N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
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Reimagining the Asia Pacific; Constructing Asian Infrastructures: Politics, Poetics, Plans


The focus of this talk is a rather strange relationship between rice, water management infrastructure and farmers in the Chao Phraya Delta in Thailand. Floating rice is a type of rice that has the ability to grow its stem rapidly, keeping pace with the rise of the floodwater. Since the 1970s, the role of floating rice in water management infrastructure in the Chao Phraya Delta has increasingly attracted attention from government officials, area studies scholars and hydrologists. Morita will argue that this particular interspecies relation facilitates a reconsideration of the notion of infrastructure and its relationship with nature. Operating in the background of everyday activities, infrastructures often remain largely invisible to the actors that rely on them. However, unusual events such as breakdowns and accidents bring about what STS scholars have denoted “infrastructural inversion”, in which the workings of infrastructure become highly visible to people. In moments of infrastructural inversion, it has often become apparent that the water management infrastructure of the Chao Phraya Delta is entangled with floating rice cultivation. By following the travels of people, ideas and technologies, this talk traces how the concerned parties have delineated this multispecies infrastructure in moments of infrastructural inversion in partly overlapping and partly divergent ways. At the core of this multispecies infrastructure is an involutionary relation between farmers and rice species. In this relationship the care of farmers and the unpredictable variation of rice create a condition for the development and constant variation of divergent but mutually dependent ways of life in the watery environment of the delta.

Atsuro Morita teaches anthropology at Osaka University. He has done ethnographic research on technology development in Thailand focusing on how ideas, artifacts and people travel in and out Thailand. In his recent research on Environmental Infrastructures (funded by Japan Society for Promotion of Science), he studies the co-existence of heterogeneous components–including cosmological, scientific and multispecies ones–of water management infrastructures in the Chao Phraya Delta. The Environmental Infrastructures project ( is an international project based on collaboration between Japanese and Danish scholars, among others. The project is focusing on the intersections of a variety of practices in the making of infrastructures for knowing and managing environmental change.


Rachel Ostep


Atsuro Morita
Professor of Anthropology, School of Human Sciences, Osaka University

Main Sponsor

Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies


Asian Institute

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