Accepted paper:

The Pressure of Waste: Sanitation Protests, Material Density and Technopolitics of Inclusion in Urban South Africa

Authors:

Steven Robins (University of Stellenbosch)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the everyday materiality of politics. Building on earlier work, we move between a recent wave of protests about sanitation access in South Africa; problems faced by city engineers in upgrading services for an expanding city to meet expectations about norms of urban life.

Paper long abstract:

This paper seeks to take problems of urban governance seriously, reconsidering the everyday materiality of politics in relation to the density of urban populations and their material byproducts. In it we engage with three conceptual points of reference: Partha Chatterjee's (2004) framing of "political society"; Nikhil Anand's (2012) discussion of the politechnics of "pressure" in Mumbai's water supply; and Steven J. Jackson's (2014) call to engage in "broken world thinking." Building on earlier work, we move between a recent wave of protests about sanitation access in South Africa; problems faced by city engineers in upgrading services for an expanding city to meet expectations about norms of urban life, and, finally, the mundane, everyday repair and maintenance work done by a caretaker/janitor at a Dutch-funded public sanitation facility in an informal settlement in Cape Town. Our goal is to draw on these sites of activism and intervention to expose the material logics of waste, population density and technology that are often elided in political discourse on everyday life in informal settlements in South Africa.

panel P130
Urban technologies and technologies of urbanity in Africa