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Accepted Paper:

Lateral Futurity: The Nigerian State as Infrastructural Enigma  
Eric Trovalla (Uppsala University, Dept. of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology) Ulrika Trovalla (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

Starting out in Jos, Nigeria, the paper unravels how the deterioration of communal infrastructures undermines the coherence of national narratives, and challenges people to try to make sense of a timeline in which the present connects to the past and the future in less and less convincing ways.

Paper long abstract:

Taking a starting point in the Nigerian city of Jos, the paper unravels the ways in which the state is called into presence in everyday encounters with the materiality of infrastructure. Here, life is inextricably nestled into webs of wires, roads, and pipes, and, through the materiality of infrastructure, the state surrounds its citizens, invades their homes, and structures life to such an extent that it becomes part and parcel of nearly any mundane undertaking, aspiration for the future, and memory of the past. But as the supply of electricity, communal water, fuel, and so on, is highly intermittent, the state comes out as an infrastructural conundrum of presence, absence and fluctuation, whose identity continually needs to be re-interpreted. The decades that have passed since infrastructures peaked in the 1970s have been an experience of gradual subtraction not only from the coverage and integrity of public grids but also from a grand narrative of national progress that was backed by the formidable materiality of the state. Now, however, as the deterioration of infrastructures has subtracted considerable materiality from the state, the solidity of this trajectory is disintegrating. Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Jos over the past two decades, the paper explores how people try to make sense of everyday life in a timeline that appears less and less linear, and in which the present connects to the past and the future in less and less convincing ways.

Panel Irre13b
The (ir)responsible state and everyday life in Sub-Saharan Africa II
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -