The Infrastructural Background

Authors: AbdouMaliq Simone*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Asia
Keywords: infrastructure, social institutions, collective life
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While urban analysis has focused on the material infrastructures of urbanity, and the degree to which urban environments are shaped by socio-technical systems and material flows, the extensiveness of urbanization—its continuous and unsustainable expansion, its footprints, and population densities-- tend to recede into the background.

For the majority of the world’s population the temporal horizons of efficacy operate at narrow “bandwidths” as livelihoods are less coherent unfolding of predictable plans, actions and sites and more a process of continuous improvisation. The urban environment does not sufficiently appear as a coherent setting. How then can residents’ perceptions of everyday urban dysnamics, their sense of futurity, and ability to commit to specific courses of action be enrolled in a systematic and collective seeing of these larger, determinant infrastructural conditions?

While urban theorization has gone a long way to grapple with the processes and structures through which this urban reality has been produced, it has much less to say about the pernicious endurance of the appearance of both material and affective force fields as background.

The background exerts a force and demands respect in its relative obscurity, rather than as an element of knowledge. The background is something in which we remain inscribed and unsettled, and what I want to consider here is how it might appear in different ways, ways that enable us to better attend to it, move with it as an initial step in configuring an urban politics of greater attentiveness to that which underpins the everyday actions of residents.

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