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TOWARD AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF LANDMINES: Rogue Infrastructure and Military Waste in the Korean DMZ

Cultural Anthropology

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Drawing on research in the borderlands of South Korea near the Korean Demilitarized Zone, this essay analyzes the heterogeneous life of landmines in postconflict militarized ecologies. Humanitarian narratives typically frame mines as deadly remnants of war, which aligns with postcolonial critiques viewing them as traces of imperial power and ongoing violence. Given that landmines and other unexploded ordnance can remain live for up to a hundred years, I suggest that mines and minefields become infrastructural when their distributed agency is redistributed over time, bringing into view nonhuman agencies and affordances that might otherwise go undetected in humanitarian or postcolonial critiques. I offer the framework of rogue infrastructure to capture the volatile materiality of mines and their multiple natural, cultural, technical, and political entanglements with the humans who exist alongside them.