Narratives of technological and infrastructure ruptures

Ornit Avidar (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
Sharon Bar-David (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
Ian Taylor (University of St. Andrews)
Politics and International Relations
Appleton Tower, Seminar Room 2.11
Wednesday 12 June, 16:15-18:00

Short abstract:

Africa is undergoing a surge in infrastructure development, including elaborate water schemes, railroad lines and power stations. These projects foster hopes, but some fail and disappoint. This panel focuses on local narratives emerging from ruptures. Whose voices are heard, and what do they teach?

Long abstract:

The African continent is undergoing a surge in infrastructure development, from elaborate water schemes, to railroad lines and power stations. Infrastructure development is a key driver for growth and vital for a sustainable economy. Local populations, leaders and international organizations promote these projects as hopeful signs of a better future. Yet, many of these projects undergo systematic and ongoing ruptures, disruptions and breakdowns. This phenomenon is particularly critical when considering the vast infrastructure deficit of the continent. We seek to highlight the local narratives that emerge when these ruptures occur. What do these narratives teach us about local perspectives on infrastructure development and its failed outcomes? How do local narratives reflect the hopes and frustrations that accompany these initiatives and their disruptions? This panel is based on the conceptual framework proposed by James Scott (1998) regarding the unintended consequences of a national policy. We echo Scott's assertion that some of the world's worst tragedies have been the result of the modern state's failed attempts at advancing grandiose development schemes. Papers will be based on diverse case studies that include a variety of infrastructure initiatives across regions. We seek to draw links between government intensions, subsequent breakdowns, and the variety of perspectives, interpretations, and experiences that are reflected in the narratives that circulate in the aftermath.