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Life in/through/by elemental infrastructures 
Sal Suri (Harvard University)
Lindsay LeBlanc (University of Toronto)
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Hina Walajahi (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This panel calls for submissions from authors thinking creatively about the elusive and critical work that is required to make and write with elemental infrastructures, which are built across geographies at multiple scales, mediating, facilitating, and disrupting life.

Long Abstract:

Airy, watery, and otherwise elemental worlds change and fluctuate as they mediate and are mediated by infrastructures. Infrastructure, as a produced and (re)productive force situated within broader social, political, and economic systems, contains material and technological possibilities that can alter, end, and make life anew. In conversation with literature that understands life’s contingency and (inter)dependence on the built structures that disrupt it (Ahmann & Kenner 2020; Hamraie 2017; Murphy 2017; Sharpe 2016), this panel invites discussion on the enabling and disabling functions of infrastructure(s)–especially as related to elemental conditions for multispecies life. Thinking across scales, we probe the ways elemental realities for life are (re/un)made through infrastructures, which are themselves contingent and unstable formations. How does elemental infrastructure (un)justly transform life experiences and how is life (re)made through/with/in spite of infrastructure? How does elemental justice inaugurate coalitions for solidarity and activism across multiple movements and landscapes? What can we learn from thinking between and linking through coalitions that center elemental and infrastructural (in)justices? How might we reconceptualize the relationship between academic work on the built environment and infrastructure, and the elemental/environmental justice work that protects life in both built and unbuilt places? How does infrastructure perform both productively and reproductively for capital; how might we resist these dynamics in our work?

The panel will facilitate working across disciplines and sharing methodological strategies for orienting studies of infrastructure towards justice. We believe in the value of personal and collective imagining – dreams and desires as elements – to transform, challenge, and rethink the conditions of life-making through infrastructure, and encourage speculative and creative modes of presentation including poetry, fiction, visual art, etc. We welcome folks dealing experimentally with representing the transient, intangible, amorphous experiences of living with/through elements, with interest in practical and pedagogical attempts to navigate technologically-mediated elemental encounters.

Accepted contributions: