Past events

RAI Research Seminar: Edward Simpson
Wednesday 19 February 2020, 05:30pm - 07:30pm
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State Highway 31: A Road Trip through the Heart of Modern India to How the World Works

Professor Edward Simpson (SOAS)

Wednesday 19 February at 5.30 pm

This talk follows the route of State Highway 31 through western Madhya Pradesh, central India. The research was part of a larger project looking at the ideas behind the production of infrastructure in South Asia. This journey takes us through landscapes of sex work and opium, some of the oldest nationalist networks in the country, and along the fault-lines of long-running tensions between local communities. The road was one of a series built as a public private partnership and, as such, speaks of the reconfiguration of state relations with private capital and business. Toll booths become places of company ethos, education and for the creation of new kinds of citizens. The nexus of government and private enterprise takes us on a dizzying journey through the world’s tax havens and onto the decks of luxury yachts. Exploring the broader political economy of the road and the organisation of institutions and travellers that sustain it encourages questions about the nature of governance and power and the direction of the world.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to: 

This talk is linked to the exhibition 'A Passage Through Passages' which runs 17 January-21 March 2020 at The Brunei Gallery (SOAS):


Edward Simpson is Professor of Social Anthropology and Director of the South Asia Institute at SOAS University of London. He is currently interested in the relationship between infrastructure, automobility and the global-sustainability agenda. From previous research he wrote: The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and Amnesia in Gujarat, India. (Hurst 2013). He is the Principal Investigator on a five-year project funded by the European Research Council looking at infrastructure across South Asia. This work is being undertaken in partnership with the Mumbai-based artists CAMP.


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