University of Konstanz from 18 to 20 May, 2023
Mobility systems, urban planning, markets, educational facilities, digital appliances: infrastructure organizes social life, assigns subject positions, and enables or prevents cultural exchange. Yet its powerful role often goes unnoticed as most infrastructure is designed to recede into the half-conscious background of daily life. In recent years, researchers in several fields have begun to uncover the sociopolitical hierarchies and resistant forces at work in the construction, maintenance, transformation, and dismantling of infrastructure. Postcolonial studies has much to contribute to this research–and vice versa.
After all, colonization is itself a large-scale infrastructure project. Both historically and systemically, colonization involves the transcultural transfer of military, political, economic, legal, social, and other infrastructure, and the destruction of indigenous infrastructure, in order to establish and maintain power over colonized peoples. As Édouard Glissant remarks, today’s infrastructures are “products of structures inherited from colonization, which no adjustment of parity (between the former colony and the former home country) and, moreover, no planning of an ideological order has been able to remedy.” Scholars in postcolonial studies have therefore begun to analyze infrastructure as a form of “planned violence” (Boehmer and Davies). At the same time, infrastructure can function as a social good that fosters relations and enables alternative forms of sociality. Access to infrastructure thus confers privilege, regulates participation, and erects hierarchies. In the decolonial struggle, infrastructure has therefore emerged as a key site and means of resistance.
These infrastructural dynamics require analytic approaches from the humanities, and especially from postcolonial studies, because they unfold centrally on a cultural level. Infrastructure is shaped by specific actors and processes, and it sustains cultural presuppositions, imaginaries, and ideologies. Infrastructure is also a discursive category that confers visibility or invisibility, and can thus establish epistemological hierarchies and undergird material ones. The concept of infrastructure itself emerged in France at the peak of European imperialism and first spread in anglophone military discourse. At the same time, there are comparable concepts in languages and cultures around the world whose knowledge might modify, challenge, or interrelate with anglophone conceptions of infrastructure.
The 2023 GAPS conference seeks to explore this underrepresented yet essential dimension of colonial, postcolonial, and decolonial life. Proposals may address, but are not limited to, issues such as:
- infrastructures of (post)colonial literature / literature about (post)colonial infrastructure
- language as infrastructure / infrastructures of language
- the uses of infrastructure in postcolonial and decolonial theory
- racialized infrastructure
- infrastructure and identity
- trans/national infrastructure; cross/border infrastructures
- infrastructures of empire
- imperial and colonial entanglements of the infrastructure concept
- the temporality of post/colonial infrastructures
- the political aesthetics of infrastructures
- infrastructure and travel (writing)
- infrastructural genres / genre as infrastructure
- translating infrastructure / infrastructures of translation
- infrastructural imaginaries
- teaching postcolonial infrastructure (within educational infrastructure)
- rethinking postcolonial studies infrastructurally: which linguistic, literary, formal, theoretical, artistic, social, etc. phenomena can productively be described as infrastructural?