Infrastructure Making People in Europe circa 2030


Two months ago the European Commission’s Mobility and Transport wing announced “Infrastructure – TEN-T – Connecting Europe,” an approximately €700 billion financial investment (into 2030), which is an extension of previous efforts to unite Europe infra structurally, where TEN-T means Trans-European Transport Networks.

The core network will connect:

  1. 94 main European ports with rail and road links
  2. 38 key airports with rail connections into major cities
  3. 15,000 km of railway line upgraded to high speed
  4. 35 cross-border projects to reduce bottlenecks

This will be the economic lifeblood of the single market, allowing a real free flow of goods and people around the EU.

Obviously, EU countries, long before any of them was an EU country, have needed to coordinate transportation routes, so this is not a huge surprise. Since the advent of the EU and its steady expansion over the past decades, coordination between nations in terms of standards (i.e., currency, transportation, reduced passport control, common safety parameters, and other membership criteria) have come a long way; however, this coordination effort.

While reading about this incredible and incredibly expensive infrastructural expansion project — and, as an American, with some jealously in my heart — I was reminded of a couple of research studies I recently read, not exactly about infrastructure, but about people, specifically, European people.

First, Evelyn Ruppert’s “Peopling Europe” which has a great take on how people and data interoperate, in this case, data make people. From her website:

Who are the people of Europe? This question can be approached theoretically, as generations of philosophers and social scientists have done, to understand the social and cultural aspects of Europeans as a people. With the support of a recently awarded ERC Consolidator Grant (2014-19) I am studying this as a practical problem of government that is currently facing EU statisticians and policy makers as they grapple with harmonising and standardising enumeration methods and data across member states to make one European population. Yet, by so doing—intentionally or otherwise—they also contribute to the making of a European people. This, at least, is the central thesis of my project, Peopling Europe: How data make a people (ARITHMUS).

I am wondering: while the infrastructure corridor is overtly framed as a way to remain competitive economically both internally and to external markets (attracting them and also competing in them), I wonder about the contributions of such an infrastructure for also peopling Europe, for creating a Europe with the implication of a European people. If data can make people, and thus people Europe, can infrastructure make people, and also people Europe? I don’t have an answer on that one, but parallel seems plausible.

Second, Huub Dijstelbloem has a new paper out about migration in Europe, “Border surveillance, mobility management and the shaping of non-publics in Europe.” Now, I know Huub from his 2013 presentation at 4S in San Diego, “Migration, Mobility, and the Networked State.” The abstract hints at — but does not come out an say it — how infrastructure improving travel flows contributes to issues related to determining how is an is not European, and the limitations of thinking in binary terms like that:

Social sorting of migrants and travellers based on data stored in information systems is at the centre of border controls and mobility management in Europe. Recent literature finds that the inclusion-exclusion distinction is insufficiently equipped to do justice to the variety of classifications that is being applied. Instead, a proliferation of refined categorizations determines the outcome of visa and permit applications. This article explores the ‘administrative ecology’ in between the two extremes of inclusion and exclusion. It claims information technologies encourage the emergence of an intermediary category of ‘non-publics’ situated between the level of groups and the level of individuals. The ontological and normative status of these ‘non-publics’ will be analysed by using some key notions of Actor-Network Theory.

Bottom-line: Infrastructure makes and un-makes peoples … lots of possibilities here.

9 thoughts on “Infrastructure Making People in Europe circa 2030

  1. interesting in relation to the rising tensions in and likely long-term dissolution of the Union, will members of publics at large be free/enabled to move about or just private interests and extracted resources?


    • The system is justified through economic advantage, but part of that advantage is to be enjoyed by enhanced tourism and increased mobilization of the public (for business, tourism, etc), which also have clear economic angles.

      Regarding the impending dissolution, perhaps laying down some of this infrastructure now will keep parts of the union hard at work long after the dissolution of the political relationships? The infrastructure becomes a kind of concrete politics or material international relations

      On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 12:23 PM, Installing (Social) Order wrote:



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