Landscape Architecture

Maan Barua: The Electropolis and Animal Life: Infrastructure in a Minor Key.

Thursday, November 4, 2021 6:00pm
Add to Calendar

Meyerson Hall, B3

To ensure the health and safety of everyone at Weitzman events, visitors to Penn’s campus are required to register in advance and complete PennOpen Campus on the day of the event. Members of the Penn community do not need to register in advance, but will be required to present a valid PennCard as well as PennOpen Pass for entry to in-person events. Please plan to arrive early. Face coverings are required indoors in public and shared spaces on the Penn campus.

Infrastructure is a pivotal concept in reading the assembly, function, and politics of urban life.   But what might the politics and material life of infrastructures look like if we developed an ecology that does not take infrastructural form and constitution for granted?  And what implications do they have for thinking about questions of design, planning and assembly? This talk looks at New Delhi's electric grid through two unusual actors: macaques and electricians informally purloining electricity. Infrastructural form emerges through their actions and in ways completely unanticipated in an electric grid’s inaugural assembly. Both are enrolled into an infrapolitics where people's claims to infrastructures proceed through subversions and by summoning other-than-human agents including macaques and spectral beings. In conclusion, the talk develops a grammar of  urban infrastructure different to more familiar  idioms  of informality,  planning, design and assembly, a grammar that is in a minor key. 

Maan Barua works on the economies, ontologies and politics of the living and material world.  His current research on urban ecologies develops new analytical grammars and ethnographic insights for understanding metropolitan life, looking at a number of themes including nonhuman worlds, infrastructure, metabolism, and urban biopolitics. This has culminated in a book, Living Cities: the urban in a minor key, to be published in 2022.  Other areas of Maan's research include lively capital, the politics and practices of biodiversity conservation and, for a while, the Plantationocene. Maan is a University Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Cambridge and a PI on the ERC Horizon 2020 Urban Ecologies project.  Prior to joining Cambridge, Maan was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford (2014-2017), where he also read for a DPhil (2013).

If you require any accessibility accommodation, such as live captioning, audio description, or a sign language interpreter, please email to let us know what you need. Please note, we require at least 48 hours’ notice. If you register within 48 hours of this event, we won’t be able to secure the appropriate accommodations.