Critical Infrastructures

From 04/04/2023

Panel discussion
Online Program
In English

With Gustav Cederlöf (Environmental Geographer, Lecturer, University of Gothenburg), Sepideh Karami (Architect, Lecturer, The University of Edinburgh), and Ute Tellmann (Professor for General Sociology, Technical University of Darmstadt), moderated by Keller Easterling (Enid Storm Dwyer Professor of Architecture, Yale University, New Haven / USA)

Infrastructure is more than just its materialization as pipes, cables, railways, or roads – it is a breeding ground and multiplier of connectivity. As such, it assumes a critical role in shaping the political public realm. This makes the societal implications of supply system failures and exclusion from them all the more impactful. Lack of infrastructure access is an expression of social disadvantage and simultaneously cements this lack of access. The intrinsic interconnectedness of care systems with social participation repeatedly makes it conducive to protest movements. At the same time, as part of the public space, infrastructures are fundamentally exposed, precarious, and under constant threat by decay, which makes them increasingly the target of privatization efforts.

The panel discussion Critical Infrastructures asks how this current trend should be evaluated in terms of the democratic promise of infrastructures, and how the inherent possibility of their failure can be reinterpreted as a productive starting point for the development of innovative systems. Relationships between infrastructure, participation, and debt are negotiated from various disciplinary perspectives based on international case studies and theoretical considerations – at a time when public services are being steadily denationalized and access to them is highly unequal. In the context of the exhibition Realities Left Vacant and the current political and societal conflicts it addresses, this panel discussion examines what are increasingly coming into the public focus as “critical infrastructures.”

Keller Easterling is a designer, writer and the Enid Storm Dwyer Professor of Architecture at Yale University, New Haven / USA. In 2019, She was a United States Artist Fellow in Architecture and Design, Chicago, and the recipient of the Blueprint Award for Critical Thinking, London. Her books include, a. o., Medium Design (London, New York: Verso, 2021), Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (London, New York: Verso, 2014), Subtraction (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014), Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and Its Political Masquerades, and Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways and Houses in America (Cambridge/Mass.: MIT Press, 1999). Easterling is also the co-author (with Richard Prelinger) of the DVD Call it Home. The House that Private Enterprise Built (1992–2013). Easterling lectures and exhibits internationally. Her research and writing was included in the 2014 and 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Gustav Cederlöf is a geographer and lecturer in human ecology at the University of Gothenburg. He previously taught at King's College London and the London School of Economics. His ongoing research explores the political and cultural dimensions of environmental change, focusing on the links between energy transitions and social conflict. He is the author of The Low Carbon Contradiction: Energy Transition, Geopolitics, and The Infrastructural State in Cuba and Discovering Political Ecology, both forthcoming in 2023.

Sepideh Karami is an architect, writer, and researcher with a PhD in Architecture, Critical Studies, and currently a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Edinburgh, School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture. She has been committed to teaching, research and practice in different international contexts. She works through artistic research, experimental methods and interdisciplinary approaches at the intersection of architecture, performing arts, literature and geology, with the ethos of decolonization, minor politics and criticality from within. She has presented, performed and exhibited her work at international conferences and platforms, and is published in peer reviewed journals.

Ute Tellmann is Professor of General Sociology/Sociological Theory at the Technical University of Darmstadt since 2019. From 2017 to 2019 she was a Professor of Political Sociology at the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt; from 2010 to 2017 she was a research associate at the Chair of General Sociology and Sociological Theory at the University of Hamburg. Tellmann is interested in cultural sociological and historical perspectives that emphasize the close connection of the sociological discipline with the history of political thought, geography, anthropology, and philosophy. She has published in numerous journals, including Economy and Society, Soziale Welt, Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft and Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory. Tellmann is the author of, among others, Life and Money. The Genealogy of Liberal Economy and the Displacement of Politics (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2017) and The Economy and the Foundation of the Modern Body Politic: Malthus and Keynes as Political Philosophers (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2007).