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Infrastructural Times: Periods, Cycles, Rhythms

Authors: Jean-Paul Addie*, Georgia State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Geographic Theory
Keywords: infrastructure, time, urban geography, regions, critical theory
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Work on the ‘politics of infrastructure’ has done much to unsettle the notion that urban infrastructures are staid or neutral physical artefacts and networks. As adaptive spatial fixes and contested political objects, infrastructure systems are always in a state of becoming. In this paper, I foreground the temporal dimensions of urban infrastructure to problematize how we conceptualize urban space, politics, and social practice. My analysis centers on three core temporal modalities over which infrastructure unfolds. First, urban infrastructures can be theorized through periodization strategies that establish epochs grounded in dominant material and governance technologies. Periods are never simply given or free from political assumptions but achieve analytical significance through the exploration of change over multiple timescales. Second, urban infrastructures are planned, governed, and lived through often-conflicting cycles, including those relating to electoral politics, policy formation, financial innovations, and the properties of construction materials and ecological systems. Infrastructures have their own life cycles: they are conceived, planned, constructed, decline, and reach obsolescence, each of which raises distinct questions about funding, maintenance, societal values, and development lock-ins. Third, urban infrastructures are animated through the rhythms of the 24-hour city. Here, urban difference is produced through repetition. Minimal differences of everyday life can serve as the foundation for realizing maximal difference that illuminate divergent experiences of gender, class, race, sexuality – and the possibilities of transcending their inherent inequalities. With this, the paper highlights the importance of incorporating temporal analyses in the on-going ‘infrastructure turn’ in urban studies

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