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P140


Politics of ruination? Deteriorating but operating infrastructures in the global North 
Convenors:
Martin Denoun (University of Liège, Spiral)
Pierre Delvenne (University of Liège)
Céline Parotte (University of Liège)
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Format:
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel wants to further develop the concept of ruination and its politics as something in need of interrogation, explanation or resolution in the context of the industrial global North, where degradation of infrastructures is both a normal and a challenging phenomenon.

Long Abstract:

Research on infrastructure has emphasized the constant activity required to maintain it (Star, 1999) and, more specifically, the need to understand repair and maintenance activities (Denis et al., 2015, Graham & Thrift, 2007). Recently, the concept of ruination has emerged as a way of specifying what wears out, decays, disintegrates as a general trend in the life of infrastructures, particularly in the Southern countries (Stoler, 2013, Anand & al., 2018, Velho & Ureta, 2019). The concept still needs to be unpacked beyond its generally accepted characteristics - for example, it is an ongoing and active process that manifests both a resurgence of the past and a weight on the future or that primarily concerns materials without being reduced to them. Most analyses on global North countries have concentrated on abandoned infrastructures or post-industrial landscapes (Mah, 2012, Pétursdóttir and Olsen, 2014). Beyond the cases of major failures, less attention has been paid to the industrial infrastructures still in use in these countries, whose degradation is both a normal and a challenging phenomenon.

This panel wants to further develop the concept of ruination and its politics as something in need of interrogation, explanation or resolution in the context of the industrial global North. Expected papers may describe the relationship between policy and industry decisions and practices in dealing with aging but operational industrial infrastructures, and may include cases from all industrial sectors.

We invite submissions that address the following non-exhaustive questions:

- What does it mean to talk about the politics of ruination? How does ruination enter into politics?

- What temporal constraints does ruination impose on the actors in charge of infrastructure?

- How can we distinguish between a politics of ruination and a politics of closure or discontinuation? What are the possible heuristic and political benefits of identifying these differences?

Accepted papers: