Precarious achievements: How infrastructure is done in the ‘global South’ (and elsewhere too)

In this seminar, I expand on my recent work on urban infrastructures as precarious achievements, always-in-the-making (Baptista 2019). Recent scholarship on infrastructures has generated rich debates around what infrastructure is, what infrastructure does and how infrastructure is done. In cities of the ‘global South’, infrastructures are available through heterogeneous configurations (Lawhon et al. 2018), built incrementally (Silver 2014), through accretion (Anand 2017) or as a result of a multiplicity of rationalities (Schindler 2014). In practice, infrastructures are never complete; they are always-in-the-making. In this light, I offer a critical appreciation of the pragmatic, persistent, and endless everyday work of keeping infrastructure going. I explore the implications of this approach to the governance of urban infrastructures in cities of the ‘global South’ (and elsewhere too).

Anand, Nikhil. 2017. Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Baptista, Idalina. 2019. Electricity services always in the making: Informality and the work of infrastructure maintenance and repair in an African city. Urban Studies 56(3): 510-525.
Lawhon, Mary, David Nilsson, Jonathan Silver, Henrik Ernstson, and Shuaib Lwasa. 2018. Thinking through heterogeneous infrastructure configurations. Urban Studies 55(4): 720-732.
Schindler, Seth. 2014. A New Delhi every day: Multiplicities of governance regimes in a transforming metropolis. Urban Geography 35(3): 402-419.
Silver, Jonathan. 2014. Incremental infrastructures: Material improvisation and social collaboration across post-colonial Accra. Urban Geography 35(6): 788-804.