Selfies of the State: The Aesthetics of Infrastructural Repair in Kampala
(University of Pennsylvania)
Paper short abstract:
Visual self-representations of statecraft in Kampala, Uganda, focus on routine infrastructural repair, not spectacular visions of the city. They disclose the political logic of a novel mode of rule, maintenance space, being charted by Kampala's newly created and avowedly anti-political government.
Paper long abstract:
Typically, infrastructures are either spectacular or invisible, but in contemporary Kampala, Uganda, the municipal government publicizes extremelybland images of infrastructural maintenance. Why? This paper examines the aesthetics of statecraft in Kampala to suggest that images of garbage trucks, paved roads, and trimmed hedges enchant via their mundanity, aspiring to assemble an urban public on the anti-political terrain of routine repair. Established in 2010, the Kampala Capital City Authority has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since, accused of being high-handed in its treatment of the city's informal sectors and anti-democratic in its very nature. The KCCA's aspirations are self-identified as anti-political, seeking to construct a clean and green Kampala by eradicating the populism and corruption of previous, elected, regimes. In this context, the municipality depicts itself as busy with the mundane and everyday work of infrastructural upkeep, making an explicit contrast with the aesthetics of the city they inherited. Images of garbage and waste management in particular have been central to establishing the legitimacy and political authority of this new mode of rule, theorized in this paper as 'maintenance space.' The municipality's representations of the city under-repair are selfies, performative representations of a new urban government in the making.
The art of infrastructure