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Maan Barua: The Electropolis and Animal Life: Infrastructure in a Minor Key.
Meyerson Hall, B3
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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).
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