Guest Lecture: Dr. Beril Ocaklı on Re/searching Connections: Geopolitics and Poetics of the BRI Infrastructure in Eurasia

A decade on, China through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) continues to occupy minds and political geographies. Unveiled a decade ago at the Nazarbayev University Campus in Astana, Kazakhstan, the BRI remains an unprecedented undertaking for seamlessly interconnecting people and places in Asia with Africa and Europe through multifarious large-scale infrastructure. Drawing on published work and reflections on ongoing research, Beril Ocaklı situates linear takes on the BRI as both mystical and alarmist, and lays bare the initiative’s shapeshifting nature in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Informed by the interdisciplines of critical geography, anthropology and political economy, the talk grounds and demystifies the geopolitical ‘giant’ in two specific geographical sites and political contexts along the Middle Corridor: (1) the re/construction of the 51 km of the Rikoti Highway in Georgia, literally constituting the Corridor, and (2) the 100 MW Zhanatas Wind Park in Kazakhstan, the largest to date in Central Asia. Juxtaposing the (geo)politics and poetics of the BRI infrastructure with lived dis/connections, the lecture proposes a conversation around infrastructure and democratic governance within and beyond the BRI.

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