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Conference: Cities, Infrastructures and the ‘Digital Turn’ in the Postcolony

Bush House North East Wing, Strand Campus, London

27 Jun
Cities, Infrastructures and the ‘Digital Turn’ in the Postcolony
Conference: Cities, Infrastructures and the ‘Digital Turn’ in the Postcolony

The ‘digital turn’ in urbanism (Ash, Kitchin, & Leszczynski, 2016) has added a new dimension to discussions around the role of infrastructure and how it shapes everyday life in the postcolonial city. The shift toward digitalisation of bureaucracy through e-governance; retrofitting ‘smart’ technologies into existing physical infrastructures of lighting, water, sanitation and public transport; and increasing ‘ease of doing business’ through digital communication systems (digital identification, virtual payment systems) and infrastructures (smartphones, fibre optic cables and cell-phone towers) is often critiqued as driven by the logics of surveillance and corporate capital. In post-colonial contexts, the digital urban turn can overlook underlying infrastructural deficits and reinforce existing barriers to accessing infrastructures among traditionally marginalised groups (Datta 2018) leading to the creation of ‘premium networked spaces’ and the splintering of cities (Graham and Marvin, 2001). On the one hand, while urban infrastructures are often reconfigured by state priorities (Easterling, 2014), it can simultaneously induce technological and economic path dependencies in urban municipalities (Datta 2018). This has been conceived as a form of ‘infrastructural violence’ – “processes of marginalization, abjection and disconnection often become operational and sustainable in contemporary cities through infrastructure” (Rodgers and O’Neill, 2012: 401).

In this conference we seek to explore the connections between cities, infrastructures and the digital turn in the postcolony and the ways that this manifests across different scales and spaces and across different social affiliations and embodied geographies. We seek to extend existing socio-technical and political ecology debates on infrastructure to consider urban infrastructures as gendered, intersectional and temporal constructions (Starr, 1999Simone, 2004), that become significant as the postcolonial city undergoes new technological experiments in the digital urban age.

Please find the conference schedule here

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