[Русская версия здесь]

Volgograd State University

supported by

European University at Saint-Petersburg


Russian Foundation for Basic Research and Administration of Volgograd Region

International conference

Living Infrastructures

Beyond Global North and Global South

April 27-28, 2017
Volgograd, Russia

Abstract submission deadline: March 15 2017

The last ten years have seen significant growth in the social studies of (urban) infrastructures. Today, we can identify two waves of infrastructure research. The first wave (e.g. S.L. Star, G. Bowker, S. Graham, S. Marvin, P. Edwards) focused on methodological and epistemological problems, identifying key features and patterns of infrastructure development in the so-called Global North. Infrastructures evolve from large technological systems passing from malleability in the early stages to rigidity in the later ones. Mature and silently working infrastructures disappear in the background and therefore become invisible and stable – the “uninteresting” underpinnings of everyday life. In this context, “breakdowns” are considered to be crucial research entry points that reveal the sociotechnical complexities of infrastructures.

The second wave (e.g. A. Barry, P. Harvey, B. Larkin, C. McFarlane, S. Ureta) concentrated on the Global South to demonstrate the limits of the first wave. This strand shows that in many places of the world infrastructures are far from invisible, stable and silent in their workings. Practices of repairing, cleaning, maintenance and tinkering are coming to the fore. Moreover, with the concept of “infrastructural lives”, the second wave draws attention to the human dimensions and components of infrastructures.

However, these waves do not represent discrete categories with a clear transition between them, but rather research trends that intermingled and interfered with one another. Further, we can observe the interactions of these waves to highlight the multiplicities not only of infrastructure research, but also of infrastructure itself.

To start, this refers to the patterns of development, governance, and maintenance of urban infrastructures (digitalization, sustainability, global transport chains, or securitization). Next, scholars have begun to focus on the regional differences and specificities of infrastructure development (for instance, water supply problems in Asia, maintaining critical infrastructure in the USA, the creation of natural infrastructures in Europe, or the debates about transport infrastructure in Russia). Further, accepting the diversity of regional developments includes accepting conceptual and methodological diversity as well. Science and Technology Studies (STS), mobilities research, critical urbanism, and non-representational theory have all contributed original approaches, concepts, and metaphors with which to understand the circulation of people, things, and ideas. These have generated a multitude of studies, from the global spread of neoliberal urbanism, to a relational view of people and the infrastructures of daily life, to the (de)territorialization of natural spaces in the city. This diversity underscores the fact that researchers from disparate disciplines and distant countries have begun to rethink the complexities of (urban) infrastructures.

We propose to continue this trend and conceptualize the politics of infrastructure research beyond the distinction between Global North and Global South. What if we start to think not only about the cultural and regional specificities of “infrastructural lives”, but also about the multiple ways in which infrastructures are another forms of life. “Living infrastructures” – the name of this conference – is a metaphor to remind us that infrastructures are dynamic and surprising, simultaneously resilient and fragile. They are ecologically mutually dependent with other life forms, they are not invulnerable and “eternal beings” as many social scientists thought of societies, they confront risks to their continued existence, and they are prone to thrive as well as to die. We invite researchers, practitioners, activists, and artists to unite their forces in conceptualizing the diversity of the infrastructural forms of life.

The conference proposes a number of themes, including but not limited to:

  • Mobilities infrastructures
  • Information technology and the digitalization of the city
  • Infrastructures of the past, future, and utopias
  • Human and more-than-human components of infrastructure
  • The materiality of infrastructure
  • The economics of infrastructure
  • Infrastructural processes in transforming the city
  • Accidents, catastrophes, and broken infrastructure
  • The politics and administration of infrastructure
  • The injustice and inequalities in accessing infrastructure
  • Grassroots and informal infrastructure
  • Affect and corporeal investigations of infrastructure
  • Age and infrastructure
  • Infrastructures of knowledge and knowing infrastructures

We also invite theoretical and empirical contributions on the diversity of historical, social, economic, cultural, and political aspects of infrastructures.

The conference languages are English and Russian.

Keynote Speakers

Monika Büscher (Lancaster University)

Deadlines and Submissions

Submit individual or collaborative abstracts (500 words) and a short bio (100 words) to the conference email: living.infrastructures@gmail.com

The deadline for submissions will be the 15th of March 2017.

Presenters will be notified of acceptance within a week after the deadline.

Follow us: Vkontakte (Rus) and Facebook (Eng)

Program committee

Andrey Kuznetsov (Volgograd State University)

Denis Sivkov (Volgograd Institute of Management – Branch of the RANEPA)

Sven Daniel Wolfe (University of Zurich)

Daria Dimke (European University at Saint-Petersburg)

Alina Kontareva (European University at Saint-Petersburg)

Organizing committee

Elena Laktyukhina (Volgograd State University)

Liliia Zemnukhova (The Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, European University at St. Petersburg)

Nikolai Rudenko (The Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Anastasia Novkunskaia (European University at Saint-Petersburg)

Liubov Chernysheva (European University at Saint-Petersburg)

Contact for any questions or concerns: living.infrastructures@gmail.com