This chapter argues that district-level bureaucrats participate in mediating different visions of infrastructure held by the many actors to which they have responsibility, ranging from local village assemblies to international contractors and state agencies. These acts of mediation are animated by the specific challenges and tensions that arise with the implementation of new infrastructure projects within their jurisdictions. As mediators, bureaucrats engage in various acts of negotiation that intervene in the original ‘blueprints’ of infrastructure projects and produce adapted infrastructures and spaces. Thus, it explores how district-level bureaucrats play an integral role in East Africa’s infrastructure scramble and show that their offices are everyday spaces in which global economic and geopolitical competition is negotiated.
Rapidly evolving drone technologies are taking the conservation sector by storm. Although the technical and applied conservation literature tends to frame drones as autonomous, neutral technologies, we argue that neither drones nor their implications can be adequately understood unless they are grounded, conceptually and methodologically, in the context of broader societal structures that shape how drones and the data they produce are used. This article introduces the value of a political ecology framework to an interdisciplinary audience of biophysical and social scientists interested in the multiple possibilities and complications associated with conservation drones. Political ecology provides the tools for studying and critically engaging with drone use in conversation in ways that are politically engaged and attuned to power relations – historic and present, local and global – in a more-than-human world. In making this argument, we point to four conceptual tools in political ecology that offer a framework for unveiling the power relations and structures that surround drones in different contexts: political economy, territoriality, knowledge and expertise, and more-than-human relations. Using empirics from our work across Latin America (Colombia and Guatemala), Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique), and North America (the US and Canada), we illustrate the salience of this framework and demonstrate why evaluating what drones do in and for conservation requires first understanding the complex set of power relations that shape their use.