Infrastructure Toolbox

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This is a useful resource for anyone writing about or thinking about infrastructure from a big name (Gupta) and a rising star (Anand), it is the notion of an “infrastructure toolbox.”

One of the bottom-line insights appears to be that STS has had an impact on general thinking about infrastructure, in particular, legitimizing the “social” study of it (think: infrastructure ethnography, which I’ve discussed before too, especially in relationship to jugaad). Thus, we ask, what does infrastructure mean, even metaphorically, for “theory-making?”

Here is the opening passage (and it is freely available on-line): 

Why an infrastructure toolbox? Infrastructure has long been a central conceptual tool—a productive metaphor—for critical theory and the analysis of social life more broadly. Take, for instance, Marxian references to infrastructure in theorizing capitalism (e.g., Althusser 1971). We speak of making concrete arguments, those (like infrastructure) that seem to offer tangible evidence of their claims. But what happens when infrastructure is no longer a metaphor? What happens to theory-making and ethnographic practice when roads and water pipes, bridges and fiber-optic cables themselves are our objects of engagement? In part, we need new tools—tools that allow us to think infrastructure’s metaphorical capacities with its material forms, and to think those material forms along with their capacities to generate aspiration and expectation, deferral and abandonment.

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