Call for papers for American Association of Geographers Annual Conference 2016
Infrastructural engagements and urban re-imaginations in the global South
Special paper session, sponsored by the Specialty Groups: Cultural and Political Ecologies, Urban Geography, Development Geography
Discussant: Dr. Nikhil Anand, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
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.