Paradoxical Infrastructures: Ruins, Retrofit, and Risk

Cymene Howe, Jessica Lockrem, Hannah Appel, Edward Hackett, Dominic Boyer, Randal Hall, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, Albert Pope, Akhil Gupta, Elizabeth Rodwell, Andrew Ballestero, Trevor Durbin, Fares el-Dahdah, Elizabeth Long, Cyrus C.M. Mody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In recent years, a dramatic increase in the study of infrastructure has occurred in the social sciences and humanities, following upon foundational work in the physical sciences, architecture, planning, information science, and engineering. This article, authored by a multidisciplinary group of scholars, probes the generative potential of infrastructure at this historical juncture. Accounting for the conceptual and material capacities of infrastructure, the article argues for the importance of paradox in understanding infrastructure. Thematically the article is organized around three key points that speak to the study of infrastructure: ruin, retrofit, and risk. The first paradox of infrastructure, ruin, suggests that even as infrastructure is generative, it degenerates. A second paradox is found in retrofit, an apparent ontological oxymoron that attempts to bridge temporality from the present to the future and yet ultimately reveals that infrastructural solidity, in material and symbolic terms, is more apparent than actual. Finally, a third paradox of infrastructure, risk, demonstrates that while a key purpose of infrastructure is to mitigate risk, it also involves new risks as it comes to fruition. The article concludes with a series of suggestions and provocations to view the study of infrastructure in more contingent and paradoxical forms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-565
Number of pages19
JournalScience Technology & Human Values
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2016

Keywords

  • ENERGY
  • ORDER
  • ROADS
  • SPACES
  • URBAN
  • VIOLENCE
  • WATER
  • alternative life forms
  • development
  • economies
  • environmental practices
  • futures
  • governance
  • markets
  • politics
  • power
  • space/place/scale dynamics

Cite this

Howe, C., Lockrem, J., Appel, H., Hackett, E., Boyer, D., Hall, R., Schneider-Mayerson, M., Pope, A., Gupta, A., Rodwell, E., Ballestero, A., Durbin, T., el-Dahdah, F., Long, E., & Mody, C. C. M. (2016). Paradoxical Infrastructures: Ruins, Retrofit, and Risk. Science Technology & Human Values, 41(3), 547-565. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243915620017