Call for Papers: African Centre for Cities International Urban Conference, 1-2 February 2018

Session: Working infrastructures in cities of the Global South

Organisers: Kathleen Stokes (University of Manchester) and Nate Millington (University of Cape Town)

Infrastructures contribute to the collective flows and metabolisms that produce urban space. From sanitation to transport, electricity to water, these socionatural configurations are essential to the organising and delivering of the resources that shape human livelihoods, economic markets, and urban environments. Urban inhabitants not only draw upon and contribute to infrastructural flows and processes – their environments and lives are influenced and informed by the nature of infrastructures themselves. According to Easterling, “far from hidden, infrastructure is now the overt point of contact and access between us all – the rules governing the space of everyday life” (2014, 11).

Recent scholarship has theorised infrastructure as ‘splintering’ (Graham & Marvin, 2001), ‘lively’ (Amin, 2014), ‘incremental’ (Silver, 2014), and ‘vital’ (Fredericks, 2014). Meanwhile, efforts to situate and decolonise research concerning urban life in the global South have challenged conventional or universalist approaches to researching urban infrastructures, along with their associated actors and processes (Lawhon, Ernstson, & Silver, 2014; Roy, 2009; Simone, 2015). How can we continue to generate new understandings of urban infrastructures and their relation to human livelihoods within and across different times and spaces?

This session seeks papers and interventions that rethink, politicise and diversify understandings of infrastructural dynamics and processes in cities of the global South. We are especially interested in papers that take seriously the role of labour within existing infrastructural systems, and welcome papers that consider the active processes of maintenance and repair that are essential to infrastructural functionality in diverse contexts. We welcome proposals for presentations of academic papers, as well as non-academic and non-text-based mediums.

In particular, we seek presentations that consider:

  • Considerations of the role played by labour within existing infrastructural configurations
  • The political economy of infrastructural provisioning at the urban, national, and regional scale
  • Embodied, ethnographic, and aesthetic engagements with infrastructural systems in cities of the global South
  • The differentiated experiences of infrastructure due to intersectional dynamics including, but not limited to, consideration of race, class, gender, sexuality, geography and ethnicity
  • Critical interpretations of colonial/postcolonial/neocolonial power relations as they are mediated by and through infrastructural systems
  • Theorisations of infrastructure(s) which attempt to disrupt or extend prevailing Marxian, poststructuralist, or positivist accounts
  • Critical engagements with engineering practices and North-South/South-South knowledge transfers

Please submit your paper title and a 250 word abstract to Kathleen Stokes ( and Nate Millington ( by June 1, 2017. More information on the conference can be found here. 

Referenced works

Amin, A. (2014). Lively Infrastructure. Theory, Culture & Society, 31(7-8), 137–161

Easterling, K. (2014). Extrastatecraft : The Power of Infrastructure Space. London ; New York: Verso Books.

Fredericks, R. (2014). Vital infrastructures of trash in Dakar. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 34(3), 532-548.

Graham, S., & Marvin, S. (2001). Splintering urbanism: networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition. London: Routledge.

Lawhon, M., Ernstson, H., & Silver, J. (2014). Provincializing Urban Political Ecology: Towards a Situated UPE Through African Urbanism. Antipode, 46(2), 497–516.

Roy, A. (2009). The 21st-Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory. Regional Studies 43, 819-830.

Silver, J. (2014). Incremental infrastructures: material improvisation and social collaboration across post-colonial Accra. Urban Geography, 35(6), 788–804.

Simone, A. (2015). Relational infrastructure in postcolonial urban worlds. In S. Graham & C. McFarlane (Eds.), Infrastructural Lives: Urban Infrastructure in Context (pp. 17–38). Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge.