Is the grid people or product? Relational infrastructure networks in Cape Town's energy-housing nexus

Charlotte Lemanski, Ruth Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although urban infrastructure is widely recognized as a physical-material representation of socio-political processes, infrastructure networks remain overwhelmingly conceived as technological reticulation systems that distribute services. While post-networked infrastructure debates highlight hybrid and heterogeneous infrastructure configurations, debates remain framed by implicit assumptions that the “network” is primarily the physical grid. Furthermore, while the relational nature of infrastructure is acknowledged, highlighting for example how people’s everyday practices are themselves a form of infrastructure, the language of infrastructure networks remains largely physical-material. Using the example of the Ceiling Retrofit Program in Cape Town (South Africa), this paper reveals how relationships between people, the state, and material infrastructures, are core, but frequently neglected, infrastructure networks. The paper demonstrates how devaluing human networks disrupts these relationships and undermines the effectiveness of physical infrastructure. Consequently, we argue that infrastructure networks require re-theorization to acknowledge and value human-relational networks as equal to, and embedded in, physical-material networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1305-1329
Number of pages25
JournalUrban Geography
Volume44
Issue number7
Early online date23 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

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