The geographies of colonial infrastructures: Mobility, im/materiality, and politics on walking trails in the Middle East

Olivia Mason*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The past 20 years have seen an expansion of walking trails across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including the Abraham Path, Palestine Heritage Trail, Jordan Trail, Israel National Trail, Lebanon Mountain Trail, and Sinai Trail. Many of those who walk these trails do so primarily for leisure, yet to relegate these trails to being merely cultural or leisure sites is to miss the less visible but equally important entanglements of space, mobility, and colonialism. The growth of these trails coincides with a context of (post)colonial and settler-colonial mobility restrictions and the associated material and imagined infrastructures that control that movement. By attending to the im/material and state/embodied tensions of walking trails, this paper demonstrates how an innocuous-looking site can enrich understanding of infrastructures and work exploring the mobilities and temporalities of colonialism. To understand the relationships between infrastructure and colonialism through walking trails, I employ a mixed-method approach combining participant observation, inter-views, and discourse analysis of official material pertaining to trails. Such an approach enables the productive tension between official narratives and experi-ences to emerge. In doing so, this paper makes three arguments surrounding the geographies of colonial infrastructures. First, how nationalism is embedded in the mobilities of trails. Second, how exploring the intimacies of infrastructure can highlight ongoing connections of capitalism and colonialism. Third, how infrastructure might be refused and imagined otherwise. In these mobilities, inti-macies, and refusals an expanded geography of colonial infrastructure emerges that makes two broader contributions to geographical scholarship. First, the need to centre attention on the MENA region beyond dominant foci that orien-tate more readily around state or geo/political practices. Second, how a focus on walking trails centres a site in which the discursive and representative is in constant relationship and tension with the experiential and embodied.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-524
Number of pages19
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Volume48
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023
Externally publishedYes

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