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Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Infrastructure History and the Social Sciences

May 30 2017 to June 01 2017 | NYU Paris

Deadline: September 01 2016

Updated: September 15 2016

Recent work in history, anthropology, science and technology studies, geography, resilience/sustainability and other disciplines has explored the multiple social effects of infrastructure. Studies of electric power networks, aqueducts, roads and waste disposal systems have examined not only the provision of services to urban residents, but also distributions of political power, the organization of capital, contentious claims by and about labor, and environmental and distributional inequalities. Social histories and ethnographies of public and private infrastructure have demonstrated that infrastructures reshape the lives of their users even as urban residents fight to reshape it to their own ends. This work has revealed both the material grounding of urban social relations and the social life of material infrastructure. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the History and Social Life of Urban Infrastructure seeks to extend and expand this work.

The conference will bring together humanists, social scientists, and those from other disciplines studying urban infrastructure’s past, present, and future. The symposium aims to allow examination of questions including: 1. How should we understand the role of infrastructural networks in the historical development and daily social life of cities? 2. How has the development of infrastructure shaped the expectations of urban citizenship? What happens when these expectations go unrealized? 3. How should we understand the ways in which infrastructure produces or diminishes urban space and power relations? 4. What is the relationship between infrastructure and the organization of urban political power, including issues of citizenship, governmentality, and claims of rights to the city? 5. How have the resource allocations of urban infrastructure reshaped the non-human world, both within and beyond the city? 6. How has infrastructure developed differently in cities under colonial, post-colonial, socialist, Keynesian, and neo-liberal governing regimes? 7. What is the role of urban infrastructure in shaping community and supporting resilience, and how has this role emerged and evolved over time? In order to allow comparison of methodologies for the study of infrastructure, the conference aims to include scholars employing ethnographic, quantitative, and archival approaches. To enable comparison across time and place, the organizers hope to include scholars working on cities in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. We welcome submissions examining both modern and early modern eras.

The symposium will be held at NYU Paris May 31-June 1, 2017, co-sponsored by the NYU Department of History, the Department of Technology, Culture, and Society at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and NYU Shanghai and funded by a grant from the NYU Provost’s Global Initiatives. The conference papers and presentations will be in English. The conference will be limited to a maximum of thirty papers, limited to ten double-spaced pages. Papers will be due by April 1, 2017 and pre-circulated, with a short oral presentation by the author, followed by two commentators and discussion on the floor. Those interested in presenting should submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by September 1, 2016 and will be selected by the organizing committee. Abstracts should be sent to Krysta Battersby, Project Manager, Department of Technology, Culture and Society, NYU Tandon School of Engineering Infrastructureconference2017@nyu.edu.