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The promises and fractures of infrastructures: infrastructural imaginaries and the realities of our built world 
Rajiv Mishra (Northwestern University in Qatar)
Anto Mohsin (Northwestern University in Qatar)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Infrastructures hold promises but also create fractures. Once built, the potentials of infrastructures can produce the opposite of the intended effects or unexpected outcomes. We invite scholars to critically examine infrastructural imaginaries conceptually, analytically, and methodologically.

Long Abstract:

The human-built world abounds with infrastructures that dominate many aspects of human lives (Hughes 2024). Scholarly attention and interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the infrastructural realities form the productively emerging field of infrastructure studies (Edwards 2003, Larkin 2013). Beginning in earnest with Star’s seminar work (1999), there has been a proliferation of scholarly works investigating all aspects and types of infrastructures. One of the most important insights scholars have shared is that infrastructures are sociotechnical systems; they are constitutive of the social and technical aspects of our world. Steve J. Jackson et al. (2007) coined the phrase “infrastructural imagination” to point to “a way of thinking and acting in the world capable of moving between the separate registers of technical and social action.” The way political leaders, government bureaucrats, policy planners and technical experts imagine and shape the design and implementation of infrastructures, provides glimpses of infrastructural imagination (Mitchel, 2002). However, the infrastructural imagination often encounters ruptures and fractures on the ground. The encounters between top-down planning and development and everyday usage of infrastructures can produce unexpected outcomes and disconnected realities. Uncertainties of the environment can also produce unintended consequences. Additionally, infrastructures also require constant making and re-making, repairing, and maintaining to stand and hold to its imaginaries and promises (Henke and Sims, 2009; Anand et al. 2018). Building on the works of scholars who have examined the opportunities and limits of infrastructures and how certain schemes to improve the human condition failed (Scott, 1999), we would like to examine how infrastructures put in place in society do the opposite intended effect and even forbid the smooth functioning of society. We invite 250-word abstract submissions that explores the promises and fractures of the infrastructure imagination. We welcome papers that critically address the conceptual, analytical, and methodological dimensions of infrastructural imaginaries.

Accepted papers:

Session 1
Session 2