Power of rhythms - trains and work along the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) in Siberia

Polar Geogr (Palm Beach). 2019 Jan 8;42(1):18-33. doi: 10.1080/1088937X.2018.1564395. eCollection 2019.


Train rhythms are dictated by regulations as well as the collaboration of human and non-human actants. When a railroad is the prime form of ground transportation and the mono-industry forming force in the cities along the railroad, the rhythms of trains have power over the everyday life of people who rely on them as passengers, workforce and traders. This is the case of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) in Siberia. The paper tackles the interaction of natural, technical, bureaucratic and economic rhythms and asks where power structures are located. Material and social networks of the involved actants are shaped by constraints and forces: Moscow driven bureaucracy, technological needs and natural conditions as well as the individual or collective needs and aspirations of social beings are entangled within the power structures that are intrinsic to railroad operations. This article is based on ethnographic field work in Siberia along the BAM. In it we argue that the diversity of rhythms introduced by the train company dominates other work and life rhythms that vary across gender, age, class and family status.

Keywords: Baikal-Amur Mainline; Siberia; mobility; railroad infrastructure; travel; work.

Grant support

This work was supported by Austrian Science Fund [grant number P 27625].