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Department of Geography

 

Infrastructural Geographies

Infrastructural Geographies

Infrastructural geographies examine the material and organizational structures of social life in diverse settings, including the role of the state and a host of other mediating institutions.

In this group we explore infrastructure in three interlinked ways. First, infrastructure is an object of study, illuminating the materiality of space, the networks through which it is organised and the interconnections between objects and bodies. Consequently the infrastructures of urban life and public goods, their plurality, dynamism and spatial variations, are key areas of study. Second, infrastructure is a lens of analysis, highlighting the connections and dependencies that circulate in the production of seemingly distinct socio-economic phenomena. This approach permits the geographies of institutional life - such as law and the state - to be recast as infrastructures of bodies, things and affects. Finally, this group explores infrastructure as a means through which social and spatial wellbeing may be understood, considering how infrastructure becomes a tool to govern social life in highly uneven and unequal ways.

Our research comprises a wide range of interests (see research themes below). Beyond the sub-disciplines of urban, development, economic or political geographies, we consider the ways in which state / citizen relations are framed and shaped by the material world. This group is renowned for its work in deploying infrastructure as a lens to explore sovereignty and power through the mediums of: state construction and the law, war and violence, postcolonial policy construction, austerity, labour geographies, infrastructural citizenship, urban ecology and epidemiology, and difference, identity and belonging. A distinctive feature of our work is its global reach including comparative insights derived from research in Europe, North America, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and East Asia.  Our research is supported by a wide range of sources including the AHRC, British Academy, ESRC, the European Research Council, the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust.

Themes

State formation between law, society and informality

State formation between law, society and informality

In this research strand we are interested in using the concept of infrastructure as a means to cultivate new questions regarding the performance and materiality of the state. Advancing current post-structural and post-foundational approaches to state power, we are keen to explore understandings of the sites, bodies, materials and affects through which sovereignty is made meaningful and legitimate.  This research has led to considerations of the role of new legal systems in the consolidation of post-conflict states; the nature and purpose of diplomacy and paradiplomacy; the everyday embodiment of state institutions, and the production of ideas of formality/informality in the operation of state power.

The material of city making

The material of city making

In this research strand we recognise the socio-technical nature of infrastructure in making the city. While the networks of roads, electricity, water, sanitation and housing for example, are all provided through the technology of road, pipes, cables and wires, they are also socially regulated, and in many parts of the world, these supplies are provided through a mix of human and technical effort. We are particularly interested in how these socio-technical materials of city making are frequently employed as tools to exacerbate existing social difference and perpetuate marginalisation, contributing to broader processes of exclusion.

Austerity as Infrastructure

Contemporary austerity policies have forced national and local state structures to change in fundamental ways which has changed the architecture of public service provision and citizens' relationship to the state, their communities, and each other. The state has withdrawn from some services or passed them to the private sector, cut back on other functions, while at the same time expanding in other ways, such as the security state. Through this lens we explore the ways in which the changing infrastructure of the state becomes a tool to govern social life in highly uneven and unequal ways.

Disputes over colonial-modern development policy

Disputes over colonial-modern development policy

This field of research examines the governance dynamics around territory, resources and populations of colonial-modern development. At 'global' and national scales, it focuses on the policy infrastructures designed to overcome stubborn social and spatial exclusions, and the exclusions that result from policy and built infrastructures. For example in Ecuador, state policies favour infrastructures for resource extraction yet contribute to uneven development and marginalization. Informed by critical development and political geography, third world feminism and Indigenous theory, this research provides insights into the ambiguous, contested and contingent aspects of policy infrastructures.

Infrastructures of urban nature

Infrastructures of urban nature

At Cambridge we are undertaking a range of work on "urban nature". The meaning of "urban ecology", for example, is undergoing a transition that includes new forms of methodological innovation derived from DNA sequencing, phenomenology, ethology, filmmaking, and other fields. Questions of agency connect with other-than-human natures and "new materialisms" including stratigraphic conceptions of space, time, and the "technosphere". Specific facets of the urban landscape such as wastelands, hydrological imaginaries, and infrastructure systems are being re-framed as a set of embodied and intersecting socio-ecological realms.

Group members

Professor Ash Amin Urban sentience and human being; and resilient states and subjects. Is interested in the implications of an emerging catastrophist biopolitics replacing a welfarist biopolitics that imagined the future as governable and hopeful. His work also explores the implications for risk management, community and belonging, urban resilience and wellbeing, and Left counter politics.
Dr Anna Barford The disease patterns and processes arising from humanitarian crises and population displacements; social and economic inequality; mapping world health data and other variables.
Dr Maan Barua Urban ecologies, Nature/Capitalism, Biodiversity, Posthumanism, More-than-human geographies
Dr Somaiyeh Falahat Urban modernity, post-colonialism, politics of production of knowledge, neighbourhoods and urban planning.
Professor Matthew Gandy Landscape, urban bio-diversity, infrastructure, and modernity, including corporeal and sensory geographies.
Dr Mia Gray Research explores the social underpinnings of labour markets and the social component of work, as well as the changing political-economy of work and employment and of labour politics more broadly. Recent research includes an analysis of work in the global firm, labour representation in the service sector, and the social mechanisms through which privilege and power are reproduced at work.
Dr Sandra Jasper The urban and cultural history of West Berlin; acoustic geographies; feminist theory and concepts of nature, agency, and human subjectivity.
Dr Alex Jeffrey Research has explored how political territorialities are communicated, materialised and challenged after conflict. His work has particularly focused on the role of civil society organisations, both as an arena of associative life but also as an imagined site of civic virtues. This has recently involved ethnographic studies of practices of transitional justice and war crime trials.
Dr Maros Krivy Research description to follow.
Dr Charlotte Lemanski
Convenor
Urban geographer interested in the ways in which everyday inequality is experienced in cities of the global South, with a primary focus on citizenship, governance and infrastructure in South Africa.
Dr Ruth Massey Urban and Development Geographer - researching the relationships that exist between stakeholders in the delivery of energy innovation to low income communities in India and South Africa.
Professor Sarah Radcliffe Postcolonial cultures and subaltern knowledges. Engages with critical development geography and postcolonial theory to explore the political economic insecurities arising in postcolonial state and development reforms particularly in Andean countries. Research also provides a critique of development policy, specifically Gender and Development, and social neoliberalism.

Graduate students

The following graduate students are also associated with the group:

Misbah Khatana Aamir Negotiating gendered space: Exploring forces that influence the construction of labour markets in Pakistan.
Isabel Airas The affective politics of political movements: structures of feeling, political resonance machines and hotspots
Tanvi Bhatkal Making cities work for women: gender and urban planning in India
Edward Bryan "Let them come to Berlin": Critically Examining the Geopolitical Significance of John F. Kennedy's visit to West Berlin on 26 June 1963
Jonathan Harris The politics of citizenship and indigenous positioning in the Amazigh diaspora
Sebastian Haug Investigating liminality: Turkey and Mexico in global development.
Thomas Jackson Paradiplomacy in the Russian Federation: A Critical Geopolitics Perspective
Judit Kuschnitzki Negotiating Statehood: A Study of the Yemeni Diplomatic Service
Marcus Nyman Foraging in the city’s margins: understanding urban nature through food gathering practices in London
Nida Rehman Urban Vectors: The Politics and Practices of Public Health in Lahore
Mathilda Rosengren
Convenor
Wastelands of difference? Urban nature and more-than-human difference in Berlin and Gothenburg
Saba Sharma
Convenor
The state and ethnic violence in Assam, India
Makoto Takahashi The Improvised Expert: examining how expert authority is claimed and contested in conditions of low public trust, with empirical reference to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster
Sibylla Warrington Brown Intersectional economic inequalities under plurinational agendas: indigenous women's work and citizenship in post-neoliberal Bolivia

Initiatives

Global Energy Nexus in Urban Settlements (GENUS)

Global Energy Nexus in Urban Settlements (GENUS)

Global Energy Nexus in Urban Settlements (GENUS) is an inter-disciplinary, research group connected to the Infrastructural Geographies thematic research group.