Infrastructural citizenship: the everyday citizenship of adapting and/or destroying public infrastructure in Cape Town, South Africa
This talk develops infrastructural citizenship as an analytical framework that bridges geography’s sub-disciplinary silos. While urban geography promotes infrastructure as a core lens for understanding the city, recognising that political struggles are mediated through infrastructure, discourses of citizenship are rarely employed. Similarly, while political and development geography promote citizenship as vital in understanding socio-political life, often framed by citizen-led action to secure basic rights and services, critical debates on urban infrastructure are typically overlooked. Consequently, despite the growth in studies recognising the politicised nature of urban infrastructure and the centrality of citizenship to urban life, the multiple ways that citizenship and infrastructure relate in diverse urban settings has received limited critical attention. This talk demonstrates how urban dwellers’ relationship to public infrastructure in the domestic spaces of the home and settlement, and the temporal scale of the everyday, offers a representation of broader political identities and perceptions, framed through the language of citizenship. In South Africa, despite 25 years of significant post-apartheid public investment in housing and services, frustration at poor service delivery and beneficiary (mis)use of public infrastructure remains dominant. While citizens adapt and consume public infrastructure in ways deemed ‘illegal’ and ‘uncivil’ by the state, citizens view these actions as a legitimate form of ‘citizenship-in-action’ in the context of rapid urbanisation and poverty, and are frustrated by perceptions of state neglect. Using the analytical framework of infrastructural citizenship, the talk reveals how this state-society disjuncture represents a citizenship mismatch that is embodied in infrastructure, rather than a material product of state disinterest or citizen destruction per se.
Thursday 28 November 2019 (17h15 - 18h45) - Géopolis - 1620