Article ID: CBB239613499

Incompleteness of urban infrastructures in transition: Scenarios from the mobile age in Nairobi (October 2020)


Work in policy and research circles tends to depict urban infrastructural heterogeneity as synonymous with failure or brokenness. Inherent in this tendency is the often-subtle expectation that infrastructures should evolve as do their counterparts elsewhere, or in a linear trajectory from less complete to more complete arrangements. This article opposes such completist lures and inclinations. I recuperate the notion of incompleteness as a constitutive feature and explanatory category for urban infrastructures that, while diverging from so-called norms and ideals, cannot be described as failed or broken. I argue that, rather than devising universalizing solutions to processes of infrastructural heterogeneity, it is perhaps better to see infrastructures as emergent, shifting and thus incomplete. I make this case looking at three successive infrastructures in Nairobi: the Simu ya Jamii kiosk, the M-Pesa stall and the M-Pesa platform. I examine these infrastructures not simply as raw materials or empirical conduits, but as the very starting point in theorizing urban infrastructures from the South. Ultimately, this study not only opens up a vital frame for situated analysis and understanding of urban infrastructures in transition, it also adds to and extends STS analytical frames into non-Northern contexts.

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Authors & Contributors
Jakkrit Sangkhamanee
Phillip Gordon Mackintosh
Dennis, Richard
Holdsworth, Deryck
Jan Hua-Henning
John G. Stehlin
The Journal of Transport History
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal
Technology and Culture
History and Technology
Icon: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology
University of Minnesota Press
Temple University Press
University of Pittsburgh Press
Göttingen Wallstein Verlag
The MIT Press
Cities and towns
Land transportation
Urban planning
Technology and society
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
19th century
20th century, early
United States
Berlin (Germany)
Bangkok, Thailand

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