Understanding Complexities of Social Infrastructures in Urban Africa

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Africa Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Bacchus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Organizers: Allen Xiao
Chairs: Hilary Hungerford


In African urban studies, infrastructure has become a major focus. By examining how citizens are or are not able to access basic infrastructural provisions, scholars have questioned “rights to the city” and the dysfunctionality of post-colonial states. In this vein, researching materialities of infrastructure has revealed ideological and discursive dimensions of infrastructure in specific socio-political contexts. However, discussing a form of infrastructure is a “categorical act”, because “it comprises a cultural analytic that highlights the epistemological and political commitments involved in selecting what one sees an infrastructural (and thus causal) and what one leaves out” (Larkin 2013: 330). Apart from emphasis on materialities of infrastructure, Simone (2004) proposes an idea of “people as infrastructure”, conjunctions of objects, spaces, practices and interpersonal relationships in which people engage to produce and reproduce lives in cities. Some other scholars have noted that various forms of urban informalities have provided vital resources and connections that create these conjunctions for urban livelihood.

Thus, this session will shed light on complexities of social infrastructure in urban Africa and discuss about the conception of infrastructure from comparative perspectives.


Larkin, B. (2013). The politics and poetics of infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology, 42, 327-343.
Simone, A. (2004). People as infrastructure: intersecting fragments in Johannesburg. Public culture, 16(3), 407-429.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Jesse McClelland*, University of Washington, A social infrastructure of the local state: Building a professional cadre of planners in Ethiopia 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Allen Xiao*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Kudus Adebayo, University of Ibadan, Cohabiting Commerce in a Transport Hub: Peoples as Infrastructure in Lagos, Nigeria 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Charisma Acey*, University of California - Berkeley, Invisible Infrastructures in African Cities: Interrogating Hybrid Arrangements in Water and Sanitation 20 6:00 PM
Presenter Lindsay Howe*, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Thinking through Peripheries. Structural Spatial Inequality in Johannesburg. 20 6:20 PM
Discussant Hilary Hungerford Utah Valley University - OREM, UT 20 6:40 PM

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