Call for Papers: 2015 Producing Urban Life: Fragility and Socio-Cultural Infrastructures, 2015 RGS-IBG


As always, I start the year thinking that I won’t go to the RGS-IBG; inevitably, something ends up tempting me into it – this year, it was Lizzie Richardson‘s suggestion of co-convening a session. The result, is the following call for papers:

Producing Urban Life: Fragility and Socio-Cultural Infrastructures

Sponsored by the Urban Geography Research Group

Organisers: Robert Shaw (Durham University); Jonathan Silver (LSE/Durham University) & Lizzie Richardson (University of Cambridge)

This session considers how the fragility of infrastructures frames contemporary cities. We are interested in the partiality of both the material promise and conceptual boundaries of infrastructure that enables and/or demands ways of coping with a variety of uncertain urbanisms (Peck 2012; Vasudevan 2014; Simone 2014). How do infrastructures persist in face of financial or other threats to their existence, and how do people continue to use infrastructure despite attempts to cut them off? In exploring this, we contribute to work that has extended the concept of infrastructure beyond processes of service provision to other socio-material practices that produce everyday life in cities of both the Global North and the Global South. In particular, how can social organisations and practices which produce cultural activities be understood as infrastructural? In doing so, we seek to retain many of the core questions that emerge when we think of studying ‘infrastructure’: what particular urban orders are exposed by focusing on infrastructure (Heynen 2013); how can successes and failures bring to light and sometimes challenge the regulation of cities (Graham 2009); how does infrastructure invite contestation and adaptation (McFarlane and Rutherford 2008); what alternative ways of living in the city can experiments with infrastructure encourage; and what is the labour behind the production and governance of infrastructure (Shaw, 2014)? Central to this session is the potential of ‘infrastructure’ to help understand practices of improvisation and collective participation (Tonkiss 2013; Amin 2014). Themes that papers might explore include:

• The everyday experiences of spaces of infrastructure
• The creation and curation of temporary spaces for socio-cultural and/or economic exchange
• Social clubs (eg sports clubs, workers’ clubs) which facilitate leisure interaction
• The appropriation or development of infrastructural spaces for other uses
• Struggles over control of infrastructure
• The creation of alternative infrastructures that respond to inadequate government provision and/or marginalisation from mainstream socio-economic participation
• Low-carbon or ‘progressively local’ infrastructures
• Understandings of how the semi-material or immaterial – atmospheres, practices or structures of feeling – might be seen as infrastructural
• The differentiated (by eg race, class, gender, sexuality) experiences of infrastructure
Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Rob (robert.shaw@durham.ac.uk), Jonathan (j.d.silver@durham.ac.uk) and Lizzie (er305@cam.ac.uk) by Monday 9th February.

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