Budka, P. (2023). Community transport infrastructures in Northern Manitoba, Canada. Paper at STS Austria Conference 2023, Vienna, Austria: Austrian Academy of Sciences, 27-29 November.
Infrastructures are at the core of many social transformations, sociopolitical developments, and creative processes of innovation. They have become key indicators and signs of economic development, technological advancement, and modernization. Particularly in small and remote communities, infrastructures are often associated with economic growth, socio-economic well-being, and therefore communal sustainability. This paper looks into the role and meaning of transport infrastructures in sustaining remote communities in Northern Manitoba, Canada. In doing so it focuses in particular on questions of infrastructural ownership and control. As of 2021, and for the first time in history, key transport infrastructures – the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill – are owned by a consortium of 41 northern communities. The paper draws on ethnographic data that have been collected in the region for the ERC project InfraNorth. As the case of transport infrastructures in Northern Manitoba shows, social relationships and organizational partnerships are key for planning, developing, building, continuing, and maintaining infrastructures. Infrastructure should therefore be conceptualized as more than just an operational system of technological objects.