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Accepted Paper:

Boilerisation: Neoliberalism, Individualism, and Uncommoning in Tashkent’s Heat and Hot Water Provision  
Nikolaos Olma (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient)

Paper short abstract:

To exit costly and untrustworthy public heat and hot water provision, middle class Tashkenters install individual boilers. But “boilerisation” reworks both the technical system and the social fabric, as the infrastructure’s neoliberal unbundling pushes users towards individualism and uncommoning.

Paper long abstract:

The neoliberal pressures that came hand-in-hand with Uzbekistan’s independence have not left Tashkent’s Soviet-era centralised heat and hot water infrastructure unaffected. While the system has not been privatised, its inherent shortcomings—e.g., inadequate heat and hot water pressure in higher floor apartments and inability of users to choose when and how much heat they consume—have been augmented by a lack of modernisation and maintenance. Yet, this has not stopped the city-owned operator from biannually increasing tariffs, prompting many users to opt out of the city’s monopoly over heat and hot water provision by installing individual electric or gas boilers. “Boilerisation” is thus an act of freedom from the limitations of Soviet-era infrastructure and, for the burgeoning middle class who can afford to invest in this relatively expensive technology, a token of upward social mobility and financial success. But boilerisation has important repercussions on the lives of those unable to install boilers as well, as the illicit uninstallation of radiators that often accompanies the process unbalances the hydraulic architecture of residential buildings. Given that apartments with boilers no longer pay for heat and hot water, boilerisation also passes the costs for the system’s maintenance to those unable to boilerise, facing them with even higher utility bills. Boilerisation thus entails a radical reworking not only of the technical systems involved in heat and hot water provision, but also of the social fabric and of infrastructural lives, as the neoliberal unbundling of infrastructure pushes users towards individualism, effectively leading to uncommoning.

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