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Infrastructural Geographies seminars: archive

Infrastructural Geographies seminars: archive

Return to the list of forthcoming seminars.

# Thursday 7th March 2019, 12.00pm - -
Visual Infrastructures: Lunchtime Film Screenings
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Film screening and discussion. All welcome.

No Angulo Das Ruas/ Around Corners
By Ines Alves

Lourenço Marques and Maputo, two cities separated by time, that occupied the same space. But the dimensions of one get mixed up with the past events of the other. It’s been 41 years since João, a Portuguese man, the father of the director, left Mozambique. This was one year after the country became independent from Portugal. In this film the director travels to Maputo, the capital, former Lourenço Marques, for the first time, bringing her father’s memories and the desire to meet the people that live in this post-colonial city today.

# Tuesday 5th March 2019, 5.30pm - Tuuli Malla & Skolt Sámi Cultural Foundation
Memories in the Skolt Sámi Area of the Arctic: Notes from a Visiting Artist
Venue: Boardroom, Department of Architecture

This talk focuses on an artistic engagement with memories of home, roots and culture in the three Skolt Sámi villages of Čeʼvetjäuʼrr (Sevettijärvi), Keväjäuʼrr (Keväjärvi) and Njeäʼllem (Nellim) in Sápmi, northern Finland. The issues of colonisation, land rights and representation are as relevant today as they have ever been at a time when the United Nations openly criticised the Finnish Supreme Court for disrespecting the autonomy of the Sámi Parliament.

The talk opens with a historical contextualisation of the relationship between life in the Skolt Sámi villages and the Finnish state. It then moves to talk through my experience of collaborative art practice as a visitor to the area. The project I developed with local people deals with oral histories through personal or passed on stories and Skolt Sámi traditional music/ memory leu’dd. The aim of the installation is to place recorded voices in proximity with a museum setting so that different temporalities of memory are brought together.

The process of working on the installation raised questions of the conditions of remembering: How can one stay sensitive to what Helga West calls research fatigue? How to work in a place where so many ethnographers, linguists and other researchers have come before? How can one genuinely collaborate and explore the issues as a visitor? What can be gained in terms of representing memories by placing contemporary voices in proximity to a museum?

# Tuesday 19th February 2019, 5.30pm - Ammar Azzouz, Arup
A tale of a Syrian city at war: destruction, resilience and memory in Homs
Venue: Boardroom, Department of Architecture

Since 2011, the war in Syria has reshaped the lives of millions of Syrians with the displacement of over ten million people – more than half the population – inside and outside Syria, and the severe destruction of historical and modern cities and countryside. In Homs, the third largest city in Syria and the focus of this paper, entire neighborhoods have been turned into rubble, destroying the familiar and reshaping the urban, social and cultural fabric of the city. However, despite this mass destruction and displacement, local architects, urbanists and residents are showing incredible levels of resilience; rehabilitating their partially damaged homes and providing shelter to the internally displaced population. Based on a series of interviews with architects and urbanists who remained in Syria, and with members of the Syrian diaspora, this paper explores the emerging relations between the urban past and present as citizens struggle to survive, to sustain lives and to envision a future. Memories of the pre-war Homs, and the surviving parts of the city, have become imagined and material places of refuge for many Homsis in the work of remembering, reflecting and seeking to reconstruct a vanished past – but also might be used to rethink the city, and to imagine its future. By engaging with Syrians, and narrating their stories in the time of war, this paper brings the element of human agency to the question of Syrian reconstruction; a dimension that too often is lost in studies of the Syrian crisis and of cities at war.

# Thursday 7th February 2019, 1.00pm - -
Visual Infrastructures: Lunchtime Film Screenings
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Film screening and discussion. All welcome.

Toute la Memoire du Monde
by Alain Resnais

# Tuesday 5th February 2019, 5.30pm - Ariel Caine, Goldsmiths University (Forensic Architecture)
City Seminar: Ariel Caine
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

GROUND TRUTH: Testimonies of dispossession, destruction, and return in the Naqab/Negev
Ariel Caine, Artist at Goldsmiths University Forensic Architecture

Over the last decade, 3D scanning and spatial imaging technologies have been rapidly permeating the fields of archaeology, architecture & civil engineering as well as military. While restructuring these fields from the inside they simultaneously open up new spaces for civic-led counter practices. In this talk I wish to consider some of the ways in which together with practitioners, researchers and activists I have been repurposing such imaging tools, bringing together computational, spatial and DIY ground and aerial photography to offer a form of imaging practice that is collective and architectural, producing spatial
testimony, documenting and exposing the spatial evidence for systemic rights abuse under conditions of visual and political violence.

During the talk we will unpack two projects, in the Naqab desert (Israel/Palestine) the project Ground Truth seeks alongside local Bedouin families to use spatial imaging and mapping to produce evidence of their continuity of presence and support land rights claims. In Iraq’s Sinjar region, together with the NGO Yazda, we have been using ground and aerial imaging to document and reconstruct traces of the Yazidi genocide by Isis, ongoing since August 2014.

# Thursday 31st January 2019, 1.00pm - -
Visual Infrastructures: Lunchtime Film Screenings
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Film screening and discussion. All welcome.

Workers Leaving the Factory
by Harun Farocki

# Tuesday 22nd January 2019, 5.30pm - Gruia Badescu, University of Konstanz
City Seminar: Gruia Badescu
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Architecture and ‘coming to terms with the past’: Post-war reconstruction in Belgrade and Sarajevo

In the aftermath of war, how does the work of architects relate to the memory-work and dealing with past processes that haunt post-war societies? This talk discusses the rebuilding of cities after war in the context of the changing character of warfare and the increased expectations for societies to deal with difficult pasts. Departing from studies that approach post-war reconstruction focusing on the functional dimension of infrastructural repair and housing relief or on debates about architectural form, I examine reconstruction through the lens of the process of ‘coming to terms with the past’. Building on the moral philosophy of Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt, I discuss the potential of reconstruction to work through the past, and engage with key insights from three situations of rebuilding after different types of war: the rebuilding of Belgrade as the capital of socialist Yugoslavia after the aerial bombings typical of the Second World War; reconstruction debates in the same city after the 1999 NATO bombings, a high-tech operation, framed by NATO as a preventative, humanitarian intervention against a ‘perpetrator’ state; finally, rebuilding processes in Sarajevo, exemplary of Mary Kaldor’s ‘new wars’. I discuss the potentiality of architecture to engage with memory-work and the ethics of responsibility in post-war reconstruction and propose a typology of post-war reconstruction in its relationship to social coming to terms with the past.

The City Seminar Series this year, co-hosted by the Department of Geography and the Department of Architecture, will convene around the theme ‘Infrastructures of Memory’. The intention of this series is to explore a variety of techniques, technologies, rituals, performances and materialities of memory and remembrance, and how they may reinforce or subvert prevailing power relations.

# Tuesday 6th November 2018, 5.30pm - Nicholas Simcik Arese, University of Cambridge
City Seminar: Nicholas Simcik Arese
Venue: Lecture Room 1, Department of Architecture, 1-5 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge

Dreams and Illusions of the Suburban Self: Variations on Propertied Autonomy in Cairo’s First Affordable Gated Community
Nicholas Simcik Arese, University of Cambridge

In Cairo’s first “affordable ” gated community, new homeowners aim to realise middle class aspirations through the promise of US-style propertied spatial norms. This presentation offers an ethnographic account of how homeowners’ interpret the word “freedom” to describe the isolation of suburban life, at once a “dream” (premised on imaginations of an “internal emigration,” outwards and into the future) and an “illusion” (premised on memories of historic Cairo, backwards and into the past). Recent work by anthropologist Talal Asad on post-revolutionary Egypt identifies tension between a “liberal incitement to individual autonomy” and autochthonous notions of freedom – self-realisation through modes of mutuality – resulting in a mass “subjectivization of morality” (2015). I situate these observations in the context of everyday property disputes in a private development for the poorest demographic to benefit from Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian neoliberalism. Soon after moving in, many homeowners’ dreams of severing cumbersome sociality become indivisible from nightmares of extreme subjectivization, at once legible in their physical surroundings: the same garden walls that are embellished for privacy are seen to provoke moral disarray otherwise attributed to inner-city life. Confronting this paradox, some homeowners feel compelled to creatively re-define the relationship between “freedom” and property beyond the paradigms of liberal autonomy and nostalgia.

The City Seminar, co-convened by the Department of Geography along with the Department of Architecture, explores the theme of ‘Infrastructures of Memory’ this year. A diverse line-up of speakers – including geographers, anthropologists, architects, artists and activists – will examine the various techniques, technologies, rituals, performances and materialities of memory and remembrance, and how they reinforce or subvert prevailing power relations.

# Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 5.30pm - Tim Edensor, Manchester Metropolitan University
City Seminar: Tim Edensor: Commemorating the Past in Stone: Destabilizing Melbourne's Memoryscape
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Commemorating the Past in Stone: Destabilizing Melbourne’s Memoryscape
Tim Edensor, Manchester Metropolitan University

This talk explores the multiple ways in which stone has been deployed to mark the past. It will look at how a specific area of Melbourne’s urban realm has been assigned as a site of commemoration, featuring a plethora of colonial and military memorials, elements that also recur throughout the centre of the city. Tim will then discuss how the presence of other stony forms of commemoration increasingly supplement and talk back to these archetypal monuments to war and elite men, especially through the recent installation of Aboriginal artworks and memorials. We may also contest these clichéd commemorative forms, he will argue, by paying attention to the numerous ways in which stone is also haunted by traces of the past, whether geological, environmental, industrial or mundane.

The City Seminar, co-convened by the Department of Geography along with the Department of Architecture, explores the theme of ‘Infrastructures of Memory’ this year. A diverse line-up of speakers – including geographers, anthropologists, architects, artists and activists – will examine the various techniques, technologies, rituals, performances and materialities of memory and remembrance, and how they reinforce or subvert prevailing power relations.

# Tuesday 9th October 2018, 5.30pm - Raphael Susewind, King's College London
City Seminar - Raphael Susewind: Rifah-E Aam Club, Lucknow: Politics and Poetics of Publicness
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Rifah-E Aam Club, Lucknow: Politics and Poetics of Publicness
Raphael Susewind, King’s College London

Public space comes under threat, is contested as much as shared, an arena for power and hegemony, leaving little hope for interaction across social divides. Yet while each reincarnation of our fragmented public sphere inscribes public space with distinct meaning, each necessarily builds on historical precedent, inadvertently expanding the scope of the term’s original promise. Over time, this creates iconic infrastructure such as the Rifah-e Aam Club, the “Club for the public good” in Lucknow. From the initial stirrings of associational culture through key moments of the national movement down to today’s goonda raj, or rule of thugs, this unruly space hosted the most unlikely republic of letters. Enter the Habermasian salon of European enlightenment transplanted unto contemporary north India, reuniting what seems irredeemably fragmented and giving hope to urban futures.

The City Seminar, co-convened by the Department of Geography along with the Department of Architecture, explores the theme of ‘Infrastructures of Memory’ this year. A diverse line-up of speakers – including geographers, anthropologists, architects, artists and activists – will examine the various techniques, technologies, rituals, performances and materialities of memory and remembrance, and how they reinforce or subvert prevailing power relations.

# Wednesday 13th June 2018, 1.00pm - Dr Sobia Ahmad Kaker, Goldsmiths: University of London
‘We are tax-paying citizens, we deserve attention’: Karachi’s upper-middle class and the politics of governance
Venue: Hardy Building (Downing Site) Room 101

This paper presents a particular moment of infrastructural collapse in Karachi to trace the emergent relations of governance between the city government and the residents of Clifton Block 7, an upper middle-class neighborhood in Karachi. By elaborating how the monsoon rains in 2009 became a catalyst for civic and political engagement for a particular group of people who had historically remained aloof from the public sphere, I will highlight how a moment of crisis became a transformative moment for participatory governance. Reading the event in relation to a wider politics of infrastructural development in Karachi, I argue that Block 7 residents sought inspiration from the poorer urban counterparts in negotiating a realm of governance that was clearly contested, contingent, and political. They successfully operationalized a rights-based discourse to seek political patronage from the city government, and in doing so were able to transform their neighborhood into an exclusive, secure enclave that was governed through an informal participatory arrangement. Through the case study of Clifton Block 7, I will build on scholarship which argues to disrupt neatly delineated concepts of insurgency, informality, and civil society/political society, (Coelho and Venkat, 2009; Lemanski and Lama-Rewal, 2013; Roy, 2009; McFarlane, 2012). I will argue that in Karachi’s context, an environment of perpetual uncertainty, insecurity, and exception is productive of a form of governance that is predicated on ambiguity. Such forms of governance exacerbate existing socio-material inequalities in an already divided and contested megacity.

# Wednesday 30th May 2018, 1.00pm - Jonathan Harriss, University of Cambridge
The Kabyle Diaspora's Politics; Articulating Nativism and Indigeneity in France
Venue: Hardy Building (Downing Site) Room 101

The xenophobic and particularly Islamophobic attitudes of France’s nativist-populist Right are particularly directed at France’s large Maghrebi postcolonial diaspora. However, part of this Maghrebi diaspora defines itself not as Arab, but as Kabyle. The Kabyle diaspora is home to a national independence movement, the Provisional Government of Kabylia (GPK). In its search for political allies, the GPK highlights the Kabyle commitment to ‘Republican values’ such as laïcité, gender equality, and democracy – playing on colonial-era stereotypes that oppose Kabyles and Arabs. These Kabyle nationalists have developed an ambivalent positioning in relation to progressive and reactionary forms of nativism, wherein they oppose ‘colonial Arabo-Islamism’ in North Africa as Indigenous people, but also articulate an anti-Islamist, anti-Arab stance that makes their discourse attractive to figures on the French Right. The GPK has adopted a nativist-populism of its own to project its claim to sovereignty in the name of the Kabyle nation. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted 2015-2017, this paper argues that the Kabyle diaspora’s leaders position draw some advantages from French nativist-populist discourse, but is simultaneously opposed to the anti-immigration and racist elements which threaten it

# Wednesday 16th May 2018, 1.00pm - Dr Graham Denyer Willis, University of Cambridge
Trust and Safety: Data and the Business of Trust-Making
Venue: Hardy Building (Downing Site) Room 101

Doubt in political institutions appears to be soaring. Trust in technology seem to be growing. What might explain this divergence? This paper examines the work and historical evolution of ‘trust and safety’ teams in Bay Area technology firms. Via ethnographic research, I illustrate the ways that ‘techies’ gather and organise data as a means to build and maintain trust in online platforms. Through machine learning, selective display of images and content, and with a deep and abiding concern with accurate and automated prediction of ‘false-positives’, as well as pervasive overlaps with state technologies and weaknesses, ‘Trust and Safety’ work illustrates how and why we are less likely to doubt technology, the internet and their everyday uses. ‘T&S’ operates as a political infrastructure that is rarely visible but always present in a positive ‘UX’ user experience, the most mundane and unexceptional process of legitimising technology and capitalism as a political system

# Wednesday 2nd May 2018, 12.15pm - Prof Manuel Aalbers
Seminar co-hosted by Development Studies and the Infrastructural Geography TRG
Game of Homes: The Financialisation of Housing
Venue: S1 Alison Richard Building

A global wall of money is looking for High-Quality Collateral (HQC) investments, and housing is one of the few asset classes considered HQC. This explains why housing is increasingly becoming financialised, but it does not explain its timing, politics and geography. Examples from the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain illustrate not only the emergence and commonalities of housing financialisation but also the continued relevance of national as well as local histories and institutions. Due to the financialisation of housing, housing risks are increasingly financial market risks these days—and vice versa. Yet, the relations between housing and financialisation remain under-researched and under-theorised. Since the 1970s, mortgage markets have been transformed from a “facilitating market” for homeowners in need of credit to one increasingly facilitating global investment. Likewise, subsidised rental housing has become exposed to global financial markets through the use of social housing bonds and financial derivatives as well as through the rise of corporate landlords such as private equity firms and real estate firms listed at the stock exchange.

Manuel B. Aalbers is a human geographer, sociologist, urban planner and associate professor of Human Geography at KU Leuven (University of Leuven) in Belgium. He is the coordinator of the Real Estate/Financial Complex research project on the intersection of real estate (including housing), finance and states. Manuel has published on redlining, social and financial exclusion, neighbourhood change (including decline and gentrification), the privatisation of social housing and the Anglophone hegemony in academia. He is the author of “The Financialisation of Housing: A political economy approach” (Routledge, 2016) “Place, Exclusion, and Mortgage Markets” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011) and the editor of “Subprime Cities: The Political Economy of Mortgage Markets” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). He is also the associate editor of the “Encyclopedia of Urban Studies” (Sage, 2010) and of geography journal TESG. He also sits on the board of the journals Urban Studies, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Belgeo, Tijdschrift voor de Volkshuisvesting and Geografie.

# Thursday 1st February 2018, 3.00pm - Charlotte Lemanski (University of Cambridge)
Infrastructural Geographies Launch event
Venue: Venue to be confirmed

The Infrastructural Geographies research group is holding an informal launch event on Thursday 1st February 3-5pm in the geograh seminar room. This is designed as an open and welcoming space for all researchers interested in the group (whether academic or postgraduate) to express their interests and share their ideas. The event will start with a number of colleagues sharing perspectives on how infrastructural geographies inform their research. These intellectual contributions will provide the basis for an open discussion on the best ways forward for the group