chapter  4
10 Pages

Situating electrification

Examples of infrastructure-practice dynamics from Thailand and Laos
ByMattijs Smits

Mattijs Smits (0000-0003-4967-4439)

Rapidly changing situations allow for insight into how infrastructures trigger the emergence, disappearance and transformation of specific practices, and of how these developments are, in turn, important for infrastructural configurations. This chapter explores features of this infrastructure-practice dynamic through two village-level case studies of rural electrification in Thailand and Laos. In both cases, different ‘layers’ of electricity infrastructure entered the villages in time frames of a few decades. In-depth fieldwork provides insight into how infrastructures, practices and demand co-evolved in these two cases. Specifically, the chapter examines the emergence and development of new and ‘electrified’ practices, such as watching television and lighting. The cases illustrate that the consequences of electrification are sometimes mediated by pre-existing material arrangements or by their absence, and that these consequences spill over into various aspects of life. By considering systems and politics of provision alongside shifting relations between variously electrified practices, the chapter bridges between concepts associated with socio-technical innovation, with political ecology, and with accounts of emerging complexes of social practice. It shows that systems and technologies of supply are not simply outcomes or expressions of ‘large’ political-economic forces, but are constituted and reproduced through the practices of different stakeholders.