Common breakdown: towards an ethnography of the meantime
Lukas Ley (Heidelberg University)
Paper short abstract:
The paper asks how ethnography, as a collaborative research method, can reveal and potentially disrupt the logic of chronic breakdown and repair of infrastructure in Semarang, a Javanese port city.
Paper long abstract:
My paper argues that recurrent floods in a coastal neighborhood of the Indonesian city Semarang produce a field of interactive relations that shapes the local perception of time. Floods produce a meantime - a form of temporal belonging in which breakdown has to be constantly managed. This meantime is also determined by material processes, as the city's drainage system is mired in ruination (Stoler 2013). Residents must deal with this ruination or "chronic disaster" (Cazdyn 2012; Fortun 2014) which puts a significant strain on social reproduction. The state, which promises to "fix" the problem and bring progress, offers limited funds for repair. Fragmentary reconstruction and repair, however, exacerbate uneven distribution of resources and ability to endure. In this meantime, where development remains a promise, time is differentially experienced at the intersections of inequity (Sharma 2014). As people strategize to deal with the dead-ends of infrastructural projects that respond to and foster an uncertain future, the meantime offers various forms of temporal belonging. Social and cultural formations are synchronized around breakdown in this meantime. The paper asks how ethnography, as a collaborative research method, can reveal and potentially disrupt the forces of the meantime.
Anthropology of re-construction: exploring and thinking the remaking of broken worlds [Disaster and Crisis Anthropology Network]