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Accepted Paper:

Relational infrastructuring: Precarious presence and the co-constitution of urban spaces, lives, and governance in Windhoek  
Lalli Metsola (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

Residents of the fringes of Windhoek rely on improvisational skills, co-presence, and social relationships to provide for their daily needs and future aspirations. The social, transactional and political patterns involved lead to relational, co-constructed infrastructures and everyday governance.

Paper long abstract:

Sustaining lives in urban environments depends on various kinds of infrastructure – buildings, roads, water, sanitation, and energy, among others. The availability of formal networks is particularly uneven in African cities due to the combination of world’s fastest urbanization, entrenched patterns of inequality, and persistent resource constraints. The paper discusses the ways in which the necessity to satisfy basic needs, as well as aspirations for better life, lead the residents at the fringes of Windhoek, Namibia's capital, to rely on improvisational skills, co-presence, and social relationships to innovate do-it-yourself solutions as well as to appropriate, bypass and complement formal infrastructures. While the immediate purpose of these activities is to solve practical problems, the social, transactional and political patterns that they entail lead to profoundly relational, co-constructed infrastructural assemblages and everyday governance. The paper utilizes these findings to address gaps in the literature on infrastructures in anthropology and related social sciences. It proposes analyzing situations of infrastructuring holistically from the perspective of urbanites’ needs and aspirations, instead of a given infrastructural assemblage; decentering the state-citizen relation in favour of relations of authority and subjectivation as a heterogeneous field; studying the various co-productive political moments and orientations involved; and an analytical perspective of processual flux that explores both how participating entities – people, things, ideas, and organizations – generate infrastructural effects and how such entities emerge through infrastructural entanglements over time.

Panel Anth07
Assembling the sustainable city: from sedimented injustices to just urban futures
  Session 1 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -