Infrastructural ethics in Ulaanbaatar - Conceptualising the city through quests for 'life quality'
Rebekah Plueckhahn (University of Melbourne)
Paper short abstract:
Subterranean heating pipes in Ulaanbaatar, their potential presence, absence, upgrading or decay form part of peoples' infrastructural imaginaries that shape decisions around property. This paper charts the emerging infrastructural ethics that shape people's conceptualisation of the city.
Paper long abstract:
Tracing peoples' attempts to access and obtain types of real estate in Ulaanbaatar, both apartments or land plots in the city's expanding peri-urban areas reveal complex forms of ethical imperatives concerning the presence and absence of access to heating and running water. This city is largely made up of two main areas, ostensibly consisting of different built forms that are infrastructurally determined: a central area consisting of apartments connected to socialist-era central heating, and a rapidly expanding and much larger area of land plots not connected to core infrastructure, consisting of gers (Mongolian nomadic felt collapsible dwellings) and self-built houses. The lack of equitable heating has resulted in large amounts of seasonal air pollution as people burn coal to warm their houses. Subterranean heating pipes, their potential presence, absence, upgrading or decay form a large part of peoples' infrastructural imaginaries that shape a diverse number of speculative economic decisions relating to property. Drawing from ethnographic research in a suburb that sits in the cusp between these two areas, and among people living in different areas of the city, tracing peoples' speculations on infrastructure present a different perception of the material make-up of the city. Looking at infrastructural speculation through the multifaceted quest for 'life quality' reveals a porousness between these two main built environments that bely and challenge class delineations, economic imperatives and built forms.
The spectres, spectacle and speculation of infrastructure - tracing the moralities of movement along energy corridors.