"Infrastructures of Urbanization" - Call for Panelist SHOT 2020

Felix Mauch's picture

Dear H-Net community,

we are seeking for an additional paper and a session chair for a proposed Open Session at this year's Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) in New Orleans (7-11 October, 2020). 

If you are interested in joining us, please respond with a short abstract proposal (100 words) by February 23, 2020 to jan-eric.hansen@geschichte.hu-berlin.de and felix.mauch@tum.de.


Session Title: Infrastructures of Urbanization. Toward an Envirotechnical Analysis of Circulation and Disconnection in the City

Organizers: Jan Hansen (Humboldt University Berlin) & Felix Mauch (Technical University Munich)

From water distribution mains and electricity grids to communication networks, freight terminals, and fulfillment centers – urban infrastructures of circulation underwent a fundamental transformation over the past two centuries. It is striking how profoundly these networks entered people’s lives and how commonplace they have become. Building, managing, and maintaining infrastructure remade both urban geographies and environments as well as urban dwellers’ social relations and identities. However, infrastructures not only enabled the circulation of people, goods, and information, they also pushed deeply into residents’ lives by restricting their access to basic services and supplies. By producing splintered landscapes of connectivity, altering, and reinforcing patterns of sociospatial inequality, particularly the materialities of infrastructure drew lines around people’s race, class, and gender identities.

This proposed panel explores the nexus between urban infrastructures of circulation, environments, and social justice/injustice. Tracing the intermingling of technology and nature, its main objective is to explore the making of cities by highlighting the concrete sociotechnical systems that facilitated circulation and uneven connection at the same time, and to ask how the (built) environment created real and imagined dividing lines between people and communities. Examining the mutual construction of physical infrastructures, urban ecologies and the cityscape, the panel analyzes how ethnic or social minorities became excluded or included in systems of provision of goods or services, arguing that infrastructure not only integrated urban residents, but fueled the fragmentation, dispossession, and containment of social communities. This panel establishes that any city’s infrastructure contributed to the making, remaking or unmaking of urban citizenship, illuminating the biopolitical and affective manifestations of infrastructural lifeworlds.

The panel’s focus is on material infrastructures such as water networks, port facilities, land reclamation projects and logistics architectures, as well as (insert your topic HERE!). Methodologically, the panel foregrounds three significant case studies to explain long-term processes of adaption to fundamental technological change in urban spaces. The case studies are Los Angeles, Singapore, and (insert your city HERE!).

In keeping with the SHOT 2020 theme of “Environment, Infrastructure, and Social Justice,” this session includes papers on different urban infrastructures in different geographical settings. However, they all address most of the following:

  • Who planned, built, managed, and maintained urban infrastructures of circulation?
  • How has the planning, implementation, and operating of infrastructure reshaped urban ecologies, both within and beyond the city?
  • How was access to and exclusion from networks organized? Who benefitted and who did not? Who had the power to make and unmake public spaces?
  • What is the relationship among the (built) environment and public space?
  • How do infrastructures produce and reproduce both urban space and the power relations within? What is the role of technology in the making of cities?
  • What is the role of urban infrastructure in shaping community and supporting resilience, including issues of citizenship, governmentality, and claims of rights to the city?
  • How have the specific requirements of urban infrastructures translated into different disciplinary and spatial technologies for managing nature and people?
  • How can we put these questions into a global perspective?

Our Papers:

(I) Jan Hansen (Humboldt University Berlin): Governing Disaster. Storm Drains, Urban Fragmentation, and the Making of ‘Modern’ Los Angeles (1930s)

(II) Felix Mauch (Technical University Munich): Built on Sand. Land Reclamation and Logistical Power in Colonial Singapore