Transforming the Infrastructural City: The Material Politics of Water Transitions in Los Angeles

Authors: Valentin Meilinger*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, United States
Keywords: urban infrastructure, material politics, Los Angeles, water, sustainability, urban nature
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the material politics of localizing Los Angeles´s water supply through wastewater recycling, whilst putting the limelight on the state as governing body and provider of infrastructure. Notoriously, Los Angeles has been portrayed as the ultimate urban environmental dystopia – the outcome of an overdriven urbanization underpinned by the expansion of technical infrastructures and a capitalist state. Today, an ambitious urban sustainability agenda comes face to face with this socio-technical assemblage of modern urbanism, and state endeavours to transform existing water networks operate in tight limits. A relational perspective on water infrastructures and their infrastructural spaces in Los Angeles, however, reveals the unruly and contested nature of current transformations. Infrastructural reconfigurations bring to light how the statist technocracy enters the imaginative and cultural spheres of a future Los Angeles and how technical controversies negotiate questions of solidarity in the city. Thereby technical infrastructures act as platforms of political contestations about future social-technical orders of Los Angeles and their geographies. In general, this engagement with the somewhat messy material politics of localizing Los Angeles’s water supply provides the substance it takes to reflect on infrastructure as a conceptual tool for reworking the contemporary city in the interest of a more progressive politics of urban change.

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