cfp AAG2016: Infrastructural engagements and urban re-imaginations in the global South

Call for papers for American Association of Geographers 2016 Annual Meeting, San Francisco, California
March 29 – April 2, 2016

Infrastructural engagements and urban re-imaginations in the global South 1 & 2

Special paper session, sponsored by the Specialty Groups: Cultural and Political Ecologies, Urban Geography, Development Geography

Discussants: Professor Andrew Harris (University College London)
Professor Malini Ranganathan (American University)

Organisers:      Niranjana Ramesh (University College London)
Matt Birkinshaw (London School of Economics)

Cities in the global South, in the last couple of decades, have been attracted to infrastructure development projects as vehicles for growth and social development. Road building or water supply projects financed under ‘smart city’ or ‘urban renewal’ programmes embed infrastructures in discourses of renewal and smartness. However, these projects raise simultaneous political, economic and ecological challenges, particularly in contexts of limited, depleted or degraded resources, with the potential for disruptive restructuring of local livelihoods, institutions and ecologies.

For this panel, we are interested in case studies and empirical research understanding infrastructures as unavoidably material and heavily socially-mediated, and using infrastructure as a materially-grounded way of analysing urban processes. More specifically, we would like to consider the interplay between engineering projects and understandings of urban governance, broadly conceived, across the global South. Infrastructure projects can remake imaginations and experiences of governance, citizenship and the city, often in unintended ways. Simultaneously, political processes can radically reshape infrastructural intentions, calling into question the smooth application of technical knowledge across social contexts.

We invite papers which investigate the imaginations, politics and practices produced and reproduced by urban infrastructure. For example, how could we better understand the origins and implications of urban imaginaries such as the ‘smart’, ‘sustainable’, ‘clean’, ’resilient’, or ‘democratic’ city through the heuristic of infrastructure?  How does work on infrastructures help us understand the relationships of these imaginaries to wider circuits of knowledge and power, as well as their interface with local socio-material histories?  How do the politics and governance emerging around infrastructural interventions open up debate over what counts as ‘the urban’, or ‘infrastructure’ itself?  Work that explores the reshaping of government institutions and the re-imagination of socio-environmental relations will be welcome, as well as that raising questions of environmental justice and challenging normative flows of knowledge and power at all scales.

Abstracts of 300 words should be emailed to and by October 19th.  Successful applicants will be notified by October 26th.

Indicative references

Anand, Nikhil. ‘Pressure: The PoliTechnics of Water Supply in Mumbai.’ Cultural Anthropology 26, no. 4 (2011): 542–64.

Birkenholtz, Trevor. ‘“Full-Cost Recovery”: Producing Differentiated Water Collection Practices and Responses to Centralized Water Networks in Jaipur, India’. Environment and Planning A 42, no. 9 (2010): 2238–53.

Carroll, Patrick. ‘Water and Technoscientific State Formation in California.’ Social Studies of Science 42, no. 4 (2012): 489–516.

Carse, A. ‘Nature as infrastructure: Making and managing the Panama Canal Watershed.’ Social Studies of Science 42, no. 4 (2012): 539–563.

Ranganathan, Malini. ‘Paying for Pipes, Claiming Citizenship: Political Agency and Water Reforms at the Urban Periphery.’ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, June 2013.

Roy, Ananya. ‘Conclusion: Postcolonial Urbanism: Speed, Hysteria, Mass Dreams.’ Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, 2011, 307–35.

Simone, A. M. ‘People as Infrastructure: Intersecting Fragments in Johannesburg.’ Public Culture 16, no. 3 (2004): 407–29.