City: Leipzig, Germany
Organiser: Sandra Calkins & Kerry Holden

Panel “Infrastructures’ Intimacies: Failure, Affectivity, and Promises” at the African Studies Association in Germany (VAD e.V.) Conference, 27-30 June 2018 in Leipzig, Germany.

In recent years, significant contributions were made to research on infrastructure, advancing technopolitical critiques and generating insight into its biopolitical dimensions. However, less attention has been paid to the effects of sedimentation of infrastructural projects that layer up over different time periods, evoking memories of failure and success and haunted by the fantasies of past generations. The foundations of many physical infrastructures in the Global South were laid in colonial times, part of modernist promises of development and later the focus of centralizing efforts of postcolonial state-building. Good, efficient infrastructure conjures an ideal image of being impersonal and highly standardized across time and space. Yet, infrastructural breakdown has been a common feature of many African sites, and the focus in scholarship has turned to exploring ‘people as infrastructure’, probing how people stand in for defunct artefacts. We contend that the gaps and breakages in infrastructure experienced in many African countries provoke experiences that merit further historical and ethnographic inquiry. Recent scholarship has explored the affective dimensions of infrastructure. We extend this inquiry to understanding how failure is experienced personally; humbling, harming, and disappointing people as they carry out their work; forcing them to find alternate solutions to maintaining movement in what are imagined and, presumably desirable, circulatory systems. We invite papers that explore how people experience the remains of infrastructure. How do people reconcile failure with past and future promises? What fantasies emanate from the historical layering of discontinuous infrastructural projects and the leftovers of empire? And what intimate relationships form in infrastructural gaps?