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Tunneling the City: Between Technicity and Regulation

Authors: Demetra Kourri*, University of Manchester
Topics: Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Infrastructure, STS, ANT, material relations
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Prague’s Blanka tunnel project has been a site for assembling social relations in the capital city and the Czech Republic for decades. Today it continues to trigger controversies surrounding the planning, negotiations, and contestations of this infrastructural project. My research traces how the tunnel attempts to transform Prague, by shifting the focus from the tunnel as object, to ‘infrastructuring' as a verb, as a process (Merriman 2016). STS approaches to large infrastructural systems are mostly focused on Multi-level Transitions, paying attention to technological shifts and developments. This by-passes the daily negotiations and break-downs taking place in long established technological systems.

Mobilizing an ANT methodology, this paper argues that through the many technological ‘failures’ of this project, we discover that the infrastructuring of a tunnel is not a simple procedure of embedding an object in a city. This process opens up problems and reveals actors that have been there all along, but were dormant, unseen and unspoken of. The ground that collapses, the water that seeps through, the force of the soil putting pressure on the structure - all require translation and a set technical solutions that incorporate their ‘language’ into the experts’ procedures. These adjustments result in action that is grounded in a cosmopolitical (Stengers 2005) relationship with nature, rather than in blatant opposition to it. Adopting a ‘cosmopolitical’ approach allows us to account for the active participation of all the experts 'whose practice actively engages with the multiple modes' (Yaneva 2015) of the project in question.

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