Author:Justin Pickard (University of Sussex)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic material from the presenter’s doctoral fieldwork in urban Gujarat, this paper explores the value and utility of ‘obduracy’ (Hommels, 2005) as a way of extending analyses of infrastructure beyond the Western, modernist ‘infrastructural ideal.’
Paper long abstract:
This paper deploys a set of ethnographically-derived figures (Haraway, 1997) that speak to the concept of 'obduracy' (Hommels, 2005) as a means of extending analyses of infrastructure beyond the Western, modernist 'infrastructural ideal.'
By bringing these figures into dialogue with Hommels' work on urban space, De Laet and Mol (2000) on 'fluid' technologies, and recent studies of postcolonial infrastructure (e.g. Trovalla and Trovalla, 2015), I make the case that existing theories of technology - such as those rooted in the traditions of SCOT, ANT, and Large Technical Systems (Hughes, 1987) - are insufficient to meet the contingencies, informalities, and contested attempts at closure that characterise infrastructure in the Indian city.
Instead, I contend that a 'thick description' (Geertz, 1973) of these various cross-cutting fluidities and obduracies is better placed to offer a granular account of the tasks and rhythms of everyday infrastructural practice, the micropolitics of the material and configurational specificities of individual systems, various typologies of interruption and failure, and the forms of user improvisation and jugaad innovation that respond to such.
Infrastructures in practice and in flux