skip to primary navigation skip to content

Infrastructural Geographies seminars: archive

Return to the list of forthcoming seminars.

# Friday 12th May 2023, 12.45pm - Dr Julia C. Morris, International Studies Department, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Colonial Afterlives of Infrastructure: From Phosphate to Asylum Processing in the Republic of Nauru
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

Recent years have witnessed the outsourcing of immigration and border controls to economically struggling states. Infrastructural projects around controlling migration are transforming localities in the Global South: from shifting legal and political economic systems to altering socialities between migrant and local populations. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in the Republic of Nauru, this talk considers how past and present infrastructural forms give shape to the ways that (in)justices are created through the concept of the ‘colonial afterlives of infrastructure.’ Nauru, the world’s smallest island state, was almost entirely economically dependent on the phosphate industry in the twentieth century. After the wealth it derived from phosphate extraction was depleted in the 1990s, the sovereign state resurged on the back of the asylum industry by importing Australia’s maritime asylum seeking populations. In this talk, I examine the material life of infrastructure around managing migration in Nauru’s 21 km2 locality, including the toxic interrelationships between phosphate and asylum processing, the industries’ built environments, and the people who live and work in them. I explore how Nauru’s refugee project has reconfigured colonial infrastructural forms, practices of dependency, and socio-legal affiliations as the country is refashioned as a company town in line with new forms of human production.

# Friday 10th February 2023, 12.45pm - Dr Evelina Gambino
THIS SEMINAR WILL BE RESCHEDULED DUE TO UCU STRIKE ACTION When the future hits the ground: navigating logistical ruins on the Black Sea.
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography

In the past decade, the coastal village of Anaklia in West Georgia has been at the centre of different waves of investment intended to turn it into a logistics hub, envisaged as the key to a future of global connections for the entire country. To this day, none of these projects have materialised, leaving the village and its inhabitants to deal with the consequences of these multiple failures. During my first visit in Anaklia in 2017, I found the village filled with the ruins of a failed attempt to build a futuristic city named Lazika. At that time, a new project was about to begin, which included the construction of a deep sea port, a free industrial zone and a privately-owned smart city. In 2020, these latest developments were halted and, while Anaklia’s future remains out of sight, the ruins dotting the village have multiplied. The unfinished infrastructural efforts that have invested the village have left longstanding marks not only on its landscape but on the socio-economic relations amongst those who inhabit it. In the wake of the these failed projects, I figure Anaklia as simultaneously an index and a product of the various processes that are brought together in the reproduction of what I call the “logistical future”. By interrogating ethnographically the promises attached to Anaklia’s development, in this presentation I show how, rather than a smooth horizon of prosperity the logistical future is instead a much murkier and multilayered temporal orientation, one that is sustained by copious amounts of reproductive labour performed by all manners of actors. Crucially, what I show is that the logistical future is constantly brokering different forms of failure. Extending far beyond Georgia, this temporal horizon is enveloping increasingly more locations on the route of the New Silk Road. This presentation, thus, advances a situated perspective to the study of global logistics aimed at showing the awkward and often violent ways in which developmental promises of logistics hit the diverse grounds they cross.

# Friday 3rd February 2023, 12.45pm - Geoff Goodwin, School of Geography, University of Leeds
The social and political life of Latin American infrastructures: Insights from the Ecuadorian Andes
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography

In this talk, I will draw on my research on water politics in Ecuador to reflect on The Social and Political Life of Latin American Infrastructures, a new cross-disciplinary book that I co-edited with Jonathan Alderman. In the introduction to the book, we build on the recent infrastructure literature to argue that it is fruitful to conceptualise infrastructure as a relational and experimental process. I will seek to show the merit of this conceptual approach by analysing the construction, maintenance and development of water infrastructure by members of rural communities in the Ecuadorian Andes. Since the 1960s and 1970s, rural highland communities have taken greater autonomous control of water sources and services, and this has involved diverse and creative interactions with various types of infrastructure. I will argue that while this uneven process has been beset by problems and conflicts, it has created space for rural communities to reconfigure social and political relations and strengthen their collective autonomous capacity. I will conclude by reflecting on the specificity of Latin American infrastructures and the gaps in the conceptual framework that we develop in the book.

# Wednesday 9th November 2022, 12.45pm - Dr Laura Loyola-Hernandez and Dr Arjan Gosal
The (in)animation of coloniality: resistance to decolonising initiatives in environmental and geographical disciplines
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography

Over the past years there have been conversations around decolonising Higher Education which have tended to focus on social science. We wanted to understand the type of impact decolonising initiatives were having in more science-based disciplines such as physical geography and environmental sciences. We carried out an online survey which received over 100 responses from the Faculty of Environment at the University of Leeds. We have written a report based on the survey results which you can access here. Our findings show there is reluctance to acknowledge how research is influenced by ongoing colonial relations. A high percentage of respondents felt decolonisation didn’t apply to their disciplines because of the nature of them which involve a “rigorous” scientific process. They argued decolonisation did not need to happen in their field given they focus on experiments, working in labs and/or with inanimate objects versus human relations. During this seminar, we will explore in detail these challenges as well as recommendations in thinking how we can overcome these obstacles in decolonising our teaching and research.

# Friday 14th October 2022, 12.45pm - Prof. James D Sidaway (Geography, National University of Singapore)
Beyond the Decolonial: Critical Muslim Geographies
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography

This talk considers selected decolonial moves in geography, building on engagements with postcolonial theory since the 1990s and earlier currents of radical geography. Based on a forthcoming paper in Dialogues in Human Geography, Sidaway charts their interactions, including the impacts of selective intellectual influences from Latin America, and foregrounds Muslim geographies. The decolonization of Muslim geographies questions concepts and upgrades terminology and speaks to crucial interfaces of circuits of capital, economic and political geographies and area studies. Such moves entail relearning from epistemological, social and spatial ‘peripheries’ and establishing connections, notably with Black geographies. The conclusions consider how such links transcend decolonial geographies.

# Thursday 17th March 2022, 2.00pm - Co-organisers: Ash Amin and Sarah Radcliffe
Workshop: Infrastructures of Wellbeing
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

In this workshop, we will examine the varied infrastructures that shape the relative wellbeing of social groups, especially those marginalized through poverty, migrant status, and colonial exclusions. These groups are characterised by dwelling in places where processes to ensure wellbeing are inadequate, unavailable, or unattainable. Yet despite this, social networks and practices enact wellbeing in the interstices available to them. Convened by the Infrastructural Geographies research group, the workshop aims to explore how understandings and practices of wellbeing are organised, enacted and secured in diverse settings, from refugee camps to Indigenous territories.

Introduction – Sarah Radcliffe and Ash Amin

Melissa Fielding Individual resilience in place of social infrastructure: Positive wellbeing as a condition for social housing in the UK

This paper explores the ways in which ‘wellbeing’ is utilised by UK local governance to transfer state responsibility onto the individual in the climate of austerity. To access the social housing register, residents living in temporary supported housing are required to meet a series of conditions. These conditions range from showing how the practical needs of a tenancy will be met (i.e., paying rent on time) to presenting desirable characteristics based around ideas of self-sufficiency and resilience. Drawing from interviews with local housing officers, housing managers and social housing tenants across the East Midlands, this paper highlights the ways in which positive wellbeing is encouraged and instrumentalised by strategic actors in the social housing system. It shows how this process is implemented within the climate of reduced social infrastructure as a cost-saving exercise, rewarding the prospective tenant who displays a sense of positive wellbeing with access to the social housing register.

Ash Amin Dwelling habitats and mental health: the poor in Delhi

This talk looks at how mental states in a slum and among the homeless in Delhi are formed in the intersections of political economy, dwelling practices, and habitat affordances. Its aim is to understand how subjectivity is shaped by intermediaries and infrastructures of place, which in their affordances mediate the balances between abjection and resilience. The talk is based on ongoing ethnographic work in Delhi, and will draw on individual narratives to explore the connections of biography, circumstances and place.

Sarah Radcliffe Hacienda Futures and socio-epistemic wellbeing

Ecuador’s 2008 constitution centred the Indigenous concept of Buen Vivir (living well) and held out a promissory agenda of rights, welfare and an end to structural discriminations for the multiracial country. Since 2008 however, buen vivir has become a technopolitics that excises Indigenous practices, knowledges and experiences. Notwithstanding – and often alongside – buen vivir technopolitics, diverse actors in a northern Andean municipality work to build intercultural processes that retrofit state infrastructures and decentralized governance into locally-meaningful outcomes and agendas of wellbeing. Drawing on interviews and participant observation, the paper discusses the significance and implications of subordinating wellbeing policy goals to local configurations of praxis and knowledge.

Maria Hagan Rhythms of social life at the post-camp border

Several contemporary border zones are governed through the active infliction of an inhospitable environment on those who seek to clandestinely pass through them. Namely, the makeshift encampments of displaced people are systematically destroyed by police forces, compromising their wellbeing and the very possibility of their survival at the border. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out with people living furtively in the northern French and northern Moroccan coastal borderlands, this talk will focus on the modes of social living that emerge in these challenging conditions. It will consider how people work to preserve their wellbeing, establishing social thresholds through rhythm, common spatial and imaginative practice. Proposing an interpretation of these social networks as both lifelines and strategic resources, the talk will also touch upon the fragility of social ties in a context of everyday competition and pressure to cross the border.

Discussion on crosscutting themes


# Friday 11th March 2022, 1.00pm - Dr Robert Lee, History Faculty, University of Cambridge
Land-Grab Universities
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which distributed public domain land to raise funds for fledgling colleges across the United States. In popular memory, this law launched the celebrated land-grant university system with a gift of free land. But the truth is more complicated: The Morrill Act worked by turning land expropriated from tribal nations into seed money for higher education. In all, the act redistributed nearly 10.8 million acres from more than 250 tribal nations for the benefit of 52 colleges. This talk will examine the results of an investigation that combined digital tools with archival research to reconstruct the Morrill Act’s geographic and financial footprint, tying university beneficiaries to the Indigenous nations whose lands underwrote their prosperity.

# Tuesday 8th March 2022, 12.30pm - Dr Michael Simpson, University of St Andrews
For information, please email Sarah Radcliffe
The Paradox of Law and Violence: Policing on the Frontlines of Struggles against the Settler Colonial State
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

From Standing Rock to Wet’suwet’en territory and across North America, land and water defenders on the frontlines of Indigenous-led struggles are facing increasingly militarized and unrestrained state violence. This paper considers what this alarming trend might teach us about the relationship between law and violence in settler colonial contexts where the state’s legal authority remains tenuous at best. Conventional understandings suggest that the police serve as the coercive arm of the state which enforces law within its territorial boundaries, whereas the military defends the state from external threats extending beyond its borders. However, in settler colonial contexts the relationship between the police and military is not so straightforward. In Canada, the national police force was founded to expand the state’s territorial claims by dispossessing Indigenous peoples of their lands. On the edges of state power, police incursions into unceded Indigenous territories work not to enforce the law; here, the police precede the law, serving to actively constitute the state’s legal authority. This points to a fundamental paradox of the state in colonial contexts – that constitutional law is unlawfully constituted. I argue that this underlying paradox helps to make sense of police violence against Indigenous peoples asserting sovereignty on the frontlines of conflicts over resource extraction today. Where police forcibly remove Indigenous peoples claiming legal and territorial jurisdiction over their unceded lands and waters, these actions should be understood not as law-enforcing violence, but rather as the law-establishing violence of colonial dispossession.

# Friday 25th February 2022, 1.00pm - Dr Max Ritts, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge
Sound's Colonialities: Formatting, Recording and Saving on Indigenous Lands
Venue: Hardy Building rm101, Downing Site

Geographers have done much to explore sound’s role in spatial production (Gallagher 2015); social difference (Kanngieser et al. 2016) and formulations of value (McFarlane 2018); and have noted sound’s ability to foment violent multispecies relations (Ritts 2017) and hierarchies (Pavan et al. 2020). But the question of sound’s colonialities – e.g., its relation to constitutive, onto-epistemic practices of colonialism – remains undertheorized (but see: Kanngieser 2021). Recent trends in environmental conservation cast this absence into sharp relief. Worldwide, various governments and NGOs are now celebrating the use of fixed, distributed, and multi-purpose acoustic sensing systems as critical eco-governance infrastructure, set to resolve key issues of species monitoring, defamation, and even community engagement (Gibb et al 2019; Odom et al. 2020). Yet these terrestrial acoustic observatories are non-innocent projections of other social logics too. Within them, one finds an emergent “calculative reason… [that] promises to collect a heterogenous, changing group of elements ‘beneath’ some higher-order goal” (Carse 2016, 35-36). What does this “calculative reason” do to conservation politics? And how might situated digital captures on sound relate to the broader environmental and social concerns of Indigenous communities?

This talk shares some initial reflections on the play of sound within the critical ambit of “coloniality” (Mignolo 2011), a matrix of power which extends unevenly across time and space. Hypothesizing sound’s digitisation and appeal to contemporary eco-governance as one possible expression of coloniality, we ask: What impacts do emergent sonic governance programmes pose to Indigenous communities, now routinely asked to collaborate in their implementation and use in the context of global conservation projects? What epistemological horizons, deskillings/reskillings, and kin relations are being valued and delimited in these observatories? And if the digitalisation of sound can be mobilised in ways that benefit Indigenous communities, how can researchers verify this is indeed what is transpiring on the ground?

# Friday 28th January 2022, 1.00pm - Speaker to be confirmed
Decolonising Initiatives: Geography and Architecture
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

At this informal meeting, geographers and architects will exchange information about what’s happening in each department, around socio-spatial dynamics, built environments and cities. The meeting will also offer an opportunity to explore synergies across our mutual research interests.

# Friday 26th November 2021, 12.00pm - Anna Guasco, Department of Geography, Cambridge
For information on venue/virtual participation, please email Sarah Radcliffe
Fieldwork, Access, and (Dis)Embodiment: On An Ethic of Not Going There
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography

Critiques of fieldwork within and beyond geography abound. In this presentation, I bring together three key strands of critique — feminist geographies, disability justice, and anti-colonial approaches — to raise questions about place, place-based research, embodiment, travel, and fieldwork. The physical, embodied experience of fieldwork, of getting one’s boots muddy or even inhaling dust in the archive, has long been understood as part of one’s authority, legitimacy, and expertise. I unpack the politics of knowledge embedded in this imaginary through the lens of access/accessibility, asking, among other questions: who is imagined to be conducting this fieldwork, and who is left out of this image? I will use the term ‘access’ broadly, acknowledging its many meanings and usages. Troubling standard notions of ‘access’ in geographical fieldwork and research travel, I will work towards asking what an ethic of not going ‘there’ might entail. This talk draws on both the methodology chapter of my dissertation and a piece I’m currently writing for Environmental History Now.

# Friday 12th November 2021, 1.00pm - Rogelio Luque-Lora, Geography Department, Cambridge
To get invite to Teams meeting, please email
'Values, de/coloniality and the more-than-human world in Chile's uprising and constituent process'.
Venue: Online Teams

Abstract: Since October 2019, Chile has experienced the highest levels of social mobilisation and political reform in decades. The core demands made by these movements appear to be centred on human issues (inequality, education, healthcare, pensions) while paying little attention to other animals, plants and their environments. By drawing on forty-one interviews and seven months of participant observation, this talk identifies several ways in which human collectives have sought to expand the scope of the uprising and constituent process to include more-than-human entities and processes. In many instances, the more-than-human is relevant to the uprising for human-centred reasons – because it has an impact on human interests and wellbeing. In others, the interests of other-than-human beings have been defended by diverse human collectives. The most visible of these latter processes is the ongoing campaign, often linked to Indigenous views and values, to include the so-called rights of nature in the new Constitution; I question the conceptual coherence and intercultural justice of this proposal, and suggest an alternative based on the collective right of humans to defend the more-than-human. Throughout the presentation, I consider how differences in the values of the various social and political actors tend to follow the contours of their geographies, identities and ethnicities. With this in mind, I end by analysing the opportunities offered by the constituent process to decolonize Chilean institutions and turn Chile into a plurinational country.

# Friday 12th November 2021, 1.00pm - Rogelio Luque-Lora
Decolonial Research Lab occasional series
Values, de/coloniality and the more-than-human world in Chile
Venue: Seminar Room, main building, Department of Geography (max 15 people), plus online on Teams

Since October 2019, Chile has experienced the highest levels of social mobilisation and political reform in decades. The core demands made by these movements appear to be centred on human issues (inequality, education, healthcare, pensions) while paying little attention to other animals, plants and their environments. By drawing on forty-one interviews and seven months of participant observation, this talk identifies several ways in which human collectives have sought to expand the scope of the uprising and constituent process to include more-than-human entities and processes. In many instances, the more-than-human is relevant to the uprising for human-centred reasons – because it has an impact on human interests and wellbeing. In others, the interests of other-than-human beings have been defended by diverse human collectives. The most visible of these latter processes is the ongoing campaign, often linked to Indigenous views and values, to include the so-called rights of nature in the new Constitution; I question the conceptual coherence and intercultural justice of this proposal, and suggest an alternative based on the collective right of humans to defend the more-than-human. Throughout the presentation, I consider how differences in the values of the various social and political actors tend to follow the contours of their geographies, identities and ethnicities. With this in mind, I end by analysing the opportunities offered by the constituent process to decolonize Chilean institutions and turn Chile into a plurinational country.

# Thursday 11th March 2021, 5.00pm - Dr Franco Barchiesi
Lethal Necessities: Precarity, Citizenship, and the Paradigm of Racial Violence (Subaltern & Decolonial Citizenships series)
Venue: Online (Zoom)

In the wake of the past decade of global capitalist meltdown, amplified by the current pandemic, corporate and state management of crisis has revealed the precarity of lives forced to depend on waged jobs that, in the context of COVID-19, have been wiped out by the tens of millions, belying the normative values attached to employment status and policy fixations with “job creation”. Precarity verges indeed on the actual lethality of jobs deemed “essential”, whose allocation reflects long-standing patterns of racial domination. While stimulated by the ethical collapse of job-centered social imagination, which COVID-19 dramatically underscores, this presentation is not primarily focused on the eventfulness of specific crises as highlighting the precarity of employment, or even on growing scholarly perceptions of how precarity announces the twilight of neoliberalism. Instead, to write about the lethal entanglements of work and precarity in times like this demands attention to long-duration paradigms that structure contingency and event, revealing the permanence of violence in excess of the framework of political economy. My core argument is that the nexus of work, death, and mass disposability rests on the ways in which racial domination and colonial dispossession have informed the conjunction of work and citizenship in the transition from post-slavery emancipation to the globalization of the racial as a principle for the hierarchical ordering of difference between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Within that global context—which critical Black perspectives have increasingly referred to as “the afterlife of slavery”—the notion of citizenship came to revolve around work and economic activity according to modalities that critical theory has analyzed as hegemonic, disciplinary, or biopolitical. None of these modalities, however, address the ways in which employment has been assumed to be the horizon and structural limitation of Black emancipation as geared not to citizenship but to renewed captivity and social death. Positioning the constitutive precarity of capitalist employment within reconfigured structures of post-slavery anti-Black violence offers therefore stronger analytical insights into the non-contingent lethality of commodity-producing work as well as its persistent racialization.

# Thursday 25th February 2021, 5.00pm - Dr Michelle Daigle
Decolonial Kinship and Freedom through Indigenous Mobilities (Subaltern and Decolonial Citizenships series)
Venue: Online (Zoom)

The fields of Indigenous Geographies and Indigenous Studies have provided crucial theorizations on Indigenous place-based ontologies and practices, and how ties to place are at the core of Indigenous understandings of kinship, as well as visions for decolonization and freedom. In this presentation, I seek to build on this scholarship by centering Indigenous movement as an analytic that incites a radical consciousness of genocidal violence and decolonial futures. My analysis emerges from historical and contemporary Mushkegowuk (Cree) mobilities through the nation’s regional waterways in and beyond so-called northern Ontario Canada. Through Mushkegowuk movement, I trace the expansiveness of extractive geographies, from mining developments called the “Ring of Fire” in rural areas, to seemingly incompatible spaces of colonial state violence against Indigenous peoples in urban centers. Within these conditions of violence, I am interested in exploring how Mushkegowuk movement is a source of theory that makes the links between the socio-political formations that constitute Mushkegowuk life. In particular, I examine how regional rivers are a site of confluence, and how movement on such rivers elucidates the connectivity of colonial regimes of power, and Indigenous political agency, kinship and interconnected struggles for freedom.

# Thursday 11th February 2021, 5.00pm - Dr Humeira Iqtidar
The Option of Non-Violence (part of Subaltern & Decolonial Citizenships series)
Venue: Online (Zoom)
The African American experience has long been an important point of reference for debates about exclusions within democratic polities in the global south. However, the very dominance of the American experience in defining racism and modes of resistance to it requires some careful thought, particularly in the current context. I am interested in exploring what norms and modes of organizing allow a space for resistance outside the cycle of binary racialization that continues to define the American experience. I explore these through a focus on a movement and the ideas it made available: the Khudai Khidmatgar or _ Volunteers For God_ movement led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) had a profound impact on the politics of decolonization as well as imagination of freedom (azadi) in colonial India and postcolonial Pakistan. Bringing Khudi Khidmatgar ideas and practices of non-violence in conversation with those of the critical race theorists I show how they can extend they complement and extend our understanding of racialized citizenship.
# Thursday 26th November 2020, 5.00pm - Professor Robbie Shilliam, Johns Hopkins University
Further information:
The new global apartheid
Venue: Online (Zoom)

The recent articulation of multiple crises seems to have intensified and sped up a set of existing fractures and shifts in governance in the West as well as worldwide. Taking prompts from the events, so far, of 2020 -including increased inequality, public health emergencies, and innovations in data management — this presentation takes a narrative approach to ask: How might some of humanity live the global architecture of racism 5 years in the future?

# Friday 20th November 2020, 1.00pm - Chen Qu
Linking Urban Public Space and Migrant Integration in China: The Struggle for and the Magic of Time
Venue: Online (Zoom)

Chinese post-migratory urban lives seem to be discussed merely from a sociological perspective in most current studies with the dynamics of urban public space seldom considered. My research explores the role of public space in the integration process by both expanding the concept of integration and examining migrant uses and senses of place, based on fieldwork in a Chinese megacity. The evidence suggests that urban public space can promote integration in various ways, and this presentation focuses on how migrant uses of such space, arguably linked to migrant citizenship, is influenced by temporal factors, alongside the interplay of migrants’ financial burdens and institutional restrictions. One the other hand, lengthy residence in the host city may promote migrants’ acculturation, local socialisation and identity-building as ‘insiders’, which indicates migrant integration’s different dimensions can be connected through ‘time’. Recommendations oriented to migrant routine, citizenship and cultural implications of urban public space are discussed at the end of the presentation.

# Tuesday 11th February 2020, 11.00am - Dr Sunil Kumar, LSE
City Seminar
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Internal Migrant Workers and Construction Labour-Camps: The Architecture of Discipline and Control in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Sunil Kumar, Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science

Labour camps housing internal migrant construction workers can be conceptualised as ‘heterotopian’ spaces, following Foucault. I argue that they are one point in a continuum of
the architecture of discipline and control. Interventions to address the exploitative nature of the working and living conditions in labour camps are complex, not least because: (i) construction moves in space and time; and (ii) labour moves, in and out of a given project, depending on skill requirements; and (iii) labour camps make their residents invisible and hard-to-access. In the Indian context, this complexity increases due to the regional and linguistic diversity of the migrant labour force. Using the Urbanisation-Construction-Migration (UCM) Nexus in South Asia (Kumar and Fernandez, 2016), I use a Foucauldian lens to argue that the ‘conundrum of collective action’ emerges from an extended architecture of control and discipline: (i) pre-construction control through cash-for-work advances; (ii),
in-construction labour camp control and discipline through a combination of enclosure, panopticon and appeasement; and (iii) post-construction indebtedness. Collective action
spaces are thus squeezed out of existence.

# Friday 8th November 2019, 1.00pm - Federico Ferretti
Other Radical Traditions: Brazilian geographers between exile and military dictatorship
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

In recent years, scholars have started to write the international history of the movement called “Radical Geography” that arose around journals such as Antipode from the 1960s-1970s. While one of the declared aims of these authors is to overtake Euro- and Anglo-centric readings of this phenomenon, this task seems far from being fully accomplished, given that most of the latest contributions address cases from the Anglosphere, especially from North-America. My ongoing reserach project on Brazilian and Latin American critical and radical geographies extends this body of scholarship and puts it in relation with a burgeoning literature on geography and decoloniality, often inspired by authors akin to the Latin American “decolonial turn”. I do this by addressing multilingual works, archives and networks of a circuit of Brazilian geographers who were exiled or variously persecuted by the military dictatorship that ruled their country between 1964 and 1985. At that time, they played influential but still neglected roles in inspiring critical and radical scholarship worldwide, thanks also to their exile experiences and their multilingualism. My main argument is that these scholars anticipated some aspects of current debates on the decolonisation of social sciences such as the critique of Northern recipes in development studies, the engagement with non-European cultures like those of indigenous and Afro-descendants, and the need for a more pluralist and cosmopolitan geography, one which can connect scholarship and grassroots mobilisations

# Thursday 13th June 2019, 1.00pm - Speaker to be confirmed
Visual Infrastructures: Lunchtime film screening
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Film screening, all welcome.

Nostalgia for the Future (2017) by Avijit Mukul Kishore and Rohan Shivkumar

# Tuesday 11th June 2019, 5.30pm - Joanna Kusiak, University of Cambridge
City Seminar: Joana Kusiak
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Nationalization from the Grassroots? Berlin Housing Struggles and the Memory of Law
Joanna Kusiak, Kings College, University of Cambridge

Can we collectively decide to expropriate our greedy landlords? While nationalization is often assumed to be a top-down, state-led intervention, Berlin’s popular movement Deutsche Wohnen Enteignen is currently seeking to expropriate predatory real-estate corporations from below. The key leverage is Article 15 of the German constitution (Grundgesetz), written in the context of the postwar political restructuring of the German state. This legal clause makes it possible to turn land, natural resources or means of production into social ownership for the common good of the society. But can the intrinsically capitalist rule of law really include a window to socialism? Forging a radical proposal to solve the housing crisis, Berlin activists are working simultaneously from within and from without the German legal system, both politicizing the law and exploring its limits.

# Thursday 6th June 2019, 1.00pm - Speaker to be confirmed
Visual Infrastructures: Lunchtime film screening
Venue: Seminar Room, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Film screening, all welcome!

Zawawa, The Sound of Sugar Cane in the Wind by Angus Carlyle and Rupert Cox

# 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