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The Dream of ASEAN Connectivity: Imagining Infrastructure in Southeast Asia

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Large-scale infrastructural development schemes are currently experiencing a worldwide political revival. Beyond establishing physical connections over distance, enhancing trade relations, and enabling service delivery, such schemes also play a central role in the construction of political entities. For the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), infrastructure development is crucial for the advancement of regional connectivity. Its Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) includes large-scale projects such as the trans-ASEAN highway, trans-regional power grids, and a regional gas pipeline network. Linking Henri Lefebvre's conceptualization on the production of space with recent literature on the role of infrastructure imaginaries, this paper explores how the region's future is envisioned in the Southeast Asian dream of connectivity. The study primarily relies on a hermeneutic analysis of video releases that promote the Master Plan. It shows that—similar to other infrastructure projects—the connectivity dream is closely related to imaginaries of movement and modernity. However, as it is almost exclusively an urban vision, the connectivity agenda seems not only to interconnect and homogenize regional space but it may also enforce preexisting disconnections and so potentially lead to more fragmentation.
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Keywords: IMAGINARIES; MODERNITY; PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE; PRODUCTION OF SPACE; REGIONALISM; URBANIZATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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