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Accepted Paper:

State-building from the margins: provisional materiality of everyday infrastructural lives after apartheid   
Hanno Mögenburg (University of Konstanz)

Paper short abstract:

In response to infrastructural undersupply and continuing deprivation of basic social goods, residents of Johannesburg's periphery intervene into public electricity infrastructure. I discuss these actions' social and material effects with view to the local appearance of the post-apartheid state

Paper long abstract:

Apartheid's spatial legacy inflicted Johannesburg's urban surrounds with continuing patterns of disparate urban development. Neoliberal policies after liberation failed to address these patterns and contributed to the deterioration of the public service delivery apparatus. Against the background of insufficient provision with electricity, ever increasing price hikes, and regular infrastructural breakdowns, residents of the metropole's townships are striving to organize their everyday lives by resorting to various makeshift practices. As I will illustrate, ordinary residents and community activists alike intervene into the process of making infrastructure by contributing to its material becoming from the grid edge. Thereby, they challenge established notions of legitimacy, expertise and governability concerning the management of large technological systems and intentionally contest the government's regulatory regime. A comprehensive, informal socio-technical network emerged around the infrastructural endings, which thereby become the site of contentions over both, the redistributive commitment as well as the phenomenology of the post-apartheid state. Hence, I propose to discuss these people's engagements with electricity infrastructure in terms of a mundane state-building from the margins as surrogate to state effects on the ground. Yet, as I will show, such networks run the risk of a dialectic outcome: while makeshift practices and their socio-material organization effectively serve the purpose of temporarily bridging gaps in provisioning, they are prone to enshrine the already fragmented infrastructural landscape people inhabit even further.

Panel P008a
Infrastructural makeshifts: the temporality and materiality of hope in times of urban transformations I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -