Call for Papers, Eighteenth-Century Studies Special Issue on Infrastructure
David Alff (University at Buffalo)
Jo Guldi (Southern Methodist University)
In recent years, growing numbers of humanists and social scientists have asked how societies provision basic amenities like potable water, waste disposal, rapid transit, and telecommunications. The resulting field of infrastructure studies extends critical attention to the environments we manufacture to gratify material need on a mass scale. Our special issue will consider what eighteenth-century studies brings to a multidisciplinary conversation that usually restricts its focus to the present. Though the word “infrastructure” did not enter English until the 1900s, the long eighteenth century witnessed the rise, decay, and repurposing of formative public works, including France’s Canal du Midi, Holland’s polder reclamations, the British turnpike system, Qing China’s Canton factory ports, and the indigenous traces that followed ridgelines throughout the Americas, among countless other technopolitical endeavors engineered to produce economic advantage and uphold collective life. We solicit essays from scholars trained in history, literary studies, art history, theology, political theory, philosophy, musicology, and any other discipline that can shed light on the avant la lettre life of eighteenth-century infrastructure. We ask that submissions contain some discussion of how specific eighteenth-century innovations in government and technology represent a departure from earlier forms of organization, as well as ponder the implications of investigating public works of the 1600, 1700, and 1800s for twenty-first century students, activists, policymakers, artists, and writers.