Asian Ethnology 82-2 | article Spectral Encounters on the Sinamale’ Bridge Affective Infrastructure along a Watery Stretch of the Belt Road

Thoiba Saeedh, R. Michael Feener

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Indian Ocean China infrastructure identity sense of place haunting

This article focuses on one of the largest infrastructure projects in the Maldives, the Sinamale’ (“China-Maldives Friendship”) Bridge. The bridge affords a range of meanings, shaped to various degrees by both its global entanglements with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and local political contestation within the Maldives. Linking the national capital to its international airport and spanning across the three islands, the Sinamale’ bridge quickly became the site of a diverse range of social and cultural experiences and interpretations—including encounters with the supernatural. The bridge has thus inadvertently become a space in which local experiences of modernity are elaborated by individuals through complex engagements with diverse elements of local cosmology, and symbolic expressions of locality and trespass that complicate any neat linear narratives of modernizing development and “progress.”