07 April 2015

Discussing African urbanism and infrastructure in the de-industrialized Northeast USA

Photo by Jonathan Silver. 

My colleague Jonathan Silver (@invisiblemapper) of Durham University's Geography Department is giving two talks next week, one on Monday afternoon at Temple University and one on Wednesday afternoon at Clark University. Details below; the talks are open to the public and I can answer questions directly or through the comments on this post. Note as well that the Temple University talk will be followed with a walking tour that I will lead to the site of the Stetson Hat Factory in North Philadelphia to compare Jonathan's research on African urbanization and the provision of networked infrastructures with the state of infrastructure and the urban condition in inner city Philadelphia. The event at Clark University will proceed as a walking lecture examining the topic through Main South, Worcester.

Talk One

Sponsored by Temple University Geography-Urban Studies, Graduate Student Association Colloquium Series:

Incremental infrastructures: Material improvisation and social collaboration across post-colonial Accra

Monday April 13, 2015, 3:00-5:00 PM
Weigley Room, Gladfelter Hall 9th Floor
Approaching the informal construction and extension of infrastructures through the terrain of “the incremental” opens up new platforms of analysis for post-colonial urban systems. This refers to ad- hoc actions on the part of slum dwellers to connect to energy networks or carve out informal living spaces. In this seminar Jonathan Silver argues that incrementalism is produced and subsequently secured and scaled through material configurations that seek to test and prefigure new forms of infrastructure and accompanying resource flows. Using a case study of energy and housing systems in a low-income neighborhood in Accra to define and examine these incremental infrastructures the seminar examines shifts in the Accra energy network as urban dwellers rework connections to flows of electricity and consider the material adjustment of housing and the role of cooperation in responding to threats of demolition and displacement. Together, incremental infrastructures and the ways that they are constituted may articulate a prefigurative politics in which residents seek to generate access to new infrastructural worlds.

The talk will be followed by a ‘walkshop’, co-organized with Alan Wiig (Temple University Geography- Urban Studies) exploring these issues in a North American context in the neighborhoods surrounding the university.

Talk Two

Sponsored by Clark University's Graduate School of Geography

Postcolonial urbanisms and a comparative theory of infrastructure: A walking lecture

Wednesday April 15 from 1:15-2:30pm
Meet at 1:15 outside the Geography Building
Across the social sciences, the growing importance of understanding cities through the infrastructures that sustain urban life create new challenges in how we research global processes of urbanization. Despite this attention there has been surprisingly little work that has sought to compare the various conceptions of infrastructures in ways that could develop a global theorization, relevant to the global North and South. This walking seminar is predicated on asking a series of questions concerning infrastructures from a post-colonial perspective. Can theories of infrastructure in cities of the global South help in understanding urban infrastructures across the global North? For instance, are there commonalities between informal, slum neighborhoods in Africa and de-industrialized cities in the Northeast United States? Does the changing nature of infrastructure operation, maintenance, provision and politics generate the need and context for a new global (urban) theory of infrastructure? This walking lecture seeks to develop an empirically and conceptually informed response to such questions by engaging with the landscape of Worcester. We will meet outside the Geography Building and proceed through the Main South, returning to Clark University. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a camera and a notebook.

Jonathan Silver is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Geography, Durham University. His PhD at Durham sought to understand the political ecologies of networked systems across Accra and Cape Town’s electricity network. Jonathan is currently working on the SAMSET project investigating energy geographies across cities in Uganda, Ghana and South Africa together with work on understanding post-colonial urbanisms through work on sanitation and everyday infrastructures.

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