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Accepted Paper:

Beyond power lines: electrification in Slovo Park and the interplay of promises and fractures  
Eileen Jahn (University of Bayreuth)

Short abstract:

Examining residents' experiences with formal electrification, this presentation analyzes promises, fractures, and social rewiring. Improved safety, security, and economic opportunities contrast with challenges like cable theft and socio-economic disparities between tenants and main households.

Long abstract:

The electrification of informal settlements, such as Slovo Park in Johannesburg, South Africa, represents a pivotal moment in infrastructural development and socio-political dynamics. Rooted in apartheid-era segregation and subsequent promises of post-apartheid liberation, electricity emerges as a symbol of social inclusion and dignity. However, electrification initiatives reveal a complex tapestry of promises and fractures impacting residents.

This presentation sheds light on the multifaceted dimensions of formal electrification in Slovo Park. Extended electricity access improves safety, security, and economic opportunities, while street lighting fosters community well-being. Yet, the installation of formalized electricity introduces new challenges and unintended tensions within the settlement. Rising incidents of cable theft and the proliferation of spaza shops contribute to heightened security concerns and increased costs of living. Socio-economic disparities between main households and tenants exacerbate existing inequalities, as electricity becomes a bargaining chip for rent payments and control over resources.

Examining residents' lived experiences and socio-political implications, this presentation critically analyzes infrastructural imaginaries and materialities in Slovo Park. It highlights the nuanced interplay between development promises, unintended exclusion fractures, and, ultimately, the rewiring of social circuits.

Traditional Open Panel P106
The promises and fractures of infrastructures: infrastructural imaginaries and the realities of our built world
  Session 2 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -