Material Assemblages: Toward a New History of Infrastructure

Material Assemblages: Toward a New History of Infrastructure

Jan Hansen (University of Southern California, Los Angeles); Frederik Schulze (University of Cologne) (Xplanatorium Schloss Herrenhausen)
Xplanatorium Schloss Herrenhausen
Herrenhäuser Straße 5
Gefördert durch
Vom - Bis
15.12.2021 - 17.12.2021
Jan Hansen, Max Kade Institute, University of Southern California

This Herrenhausen Symposium explores the materiality of infrastructure, which is a fundamental yet understudied dimension for understanding the human condition. Viewing infrastructure as a „material assemblage“, the Symposium highlights its various relational interactions with humans and non-humans. This adds to ongoing efforts to decentralize human agency. The event will be accessible via Zoom. Please contact the conveners for the Zoom link.

Material Assemblages: Toward a New History of Infrastructure

From bridges, water mains, and large dams to railways, electrical grids, and internet cables – infrastructures are socio-technical systems for which long-lasting material installments are central. They provide social functions such as mobility, exchange, and communication, and they keep human societies, economic systems, and political entities running. They structure everyday life on the most basic level.

The focus of the Symposium is directed, but not limited, to the following set of questions: What kinds of construction materials gave rise to new infrastructures? What kind of knowledge have humans developed for the material texture of infrastructure? How have humans adapted to the use and experience of certain materials, and what role did material perceptions and emotions play in this? How have people responded to collapse and material decay? What sources should we analyze and how can we read them against the grain? What theories should we use to analyze the materiality of infrastructure? How can the material history of infrastructures enter into a dialogue with other approaches and disciplines, such as science and technology studies, anthropology, archaeology, and sociology?

The event will be accessible via Zoom. Please contact the conveners for the Zoom link.


Dec. 15, 2021

14:30–15:00: Introduction

Jan Hansen (Berlin/Los Angeles) and Frederik Schulze (Cologne): Infrastructures as Material Assemblages

15:00–16:15: Panel 1: Infrastructure and the Making of the „Modern“ City

Vincent Lagendijk (Maastricht): Concrete Racism: Road-Building, Urban Reconstruction and Race Relations in Baltimore, 1910–2018

Laura Meneghello (Siegen): Assembling the City: Pneumatic Tubes and the Social Space

Discussant: Timothy Moss (Berlin)

16:45–18:00: Panel 2: Infrastructure, Empires, and Questions of Power

Alicia Maggard (Auburn): Steam Power and State Power: The United States, New Granada, and the Panama Route

Aaron Hall (Minneapolis): Bad Roads: Slavery and Public Ways in the Antebellum South

Discussant: Ute Hasenöhrl (Innsbruck)

18:30–19:30: Keynote Lecture

Anke Ortlepp (Cologne): Putting Things into Perspective: Reflections on the History of Materials and Materiality

Dec. 16, 2021

10:00–11:15: Panel 3: Material Networks of Circulation
Tiina Männistö-Funk (Turku): What a Curbstone Does: A Century of Material Entanglements in Street Space

Marie Huber (Berlin): The Social Life of Planes: Approaching the Materiality of 20th Century Air Travel through Object Biographies of Passenger Planes

Discussant: Daqing Yang (Washington, D.C.)

11:30–12:45: Panel 4: Roads: One Infrastructure, Different Materials

Maria Luísa Sousa (Lisbon): The Portuguese Intra-Imperial Research on the Use of Laterite in Road Construction in Angola and Mozambique

Martin Meiske (Munich): Toxic Traces of Maintenance and Repair: Exploring the Rise of Creosote and its Precarious Legacy in Europe

Discussant: Julia Obertreis (Erlangen-Nuremberg)

14:15–15:30: Panel 5: Materials between Stability and Fluidity

Gretchen Bakke (Berlin): Refrigerator as Lynchpin: A Short History of the Fossil Fuelled Electricity System

Ellan F. Spero (Cambridge, MA): Sand, Microbes, and Machinery: The Materiality of Potable Water in a Manufacturing City

Discussant: Kenny Cupers (Basel)

16:00–17:45: Panel 6: Invisible Materialities

Jeanne Féaux de la Croix (Tübingen): „Phantom-Infrastructure“: Efficacy and Political Emotions in Planning

Marina Peterson (Austin): Cloud Seeding Los Angeles: The Poetics of Aerial Infrastructure

Daqing Yang (Washington, D.C.): The Materiality and Agency of Void: Wireless Spectrum and the Communications Infrastructure in the Asia Pacific, 1900–1941

Discussant: Gretchen Bakke (Berlin)

18:15–19:30: Keynote Lecture

Kenny Cupers (Basel), Prita Meier (New York), and Zandi Sherman (New Brunswick): Coloniality of Infrastructure

Dec. 17, 2021

9:30–10:45: Panel 7: Concrete as a Medium of Power: Corporate History Perspectives

María Jeldes Olivares and Paul Sprute (both Erkner): Materialities of the Construction Process: International Contractors and the Subway in Buenos Aires

Sadia Amin and Monika Motylinska (both Erkner): (Dis)-Connecting Elements: A Vivisection of Ebute-Ero in Lagos

Discussant: Vincent Lagendijk (Maastricht)

11:00–12:30: Round Table

Kenny Cupers (Basel), Ute Hasenöhrl (Innsbruck), Timothy Moss (Berlin)

(All times local)


Jan Hansen, Berlin/Los Angeles

Frederik Schulze, Cologne