Universität Wien FIND
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240516 SE Anthropological Perspectives on Infrastructure (P4) (2019W)

Continuous assessment of course work

Participation at first session is obligatory!


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 40 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

The last meeting in January might have to be canceled.

Monday 07.10. 11:30 - 14:45 Seminarraum A, NIG 4. Stock
Monday 04.11. 11:30 - 14:45 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Monday 18.11. 11:30 - 14:45 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Monday 09.12. 11:30 - 14:45 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock
Monday 13.01. 11:30 - 14:45 Seminarraum A, NIG 4. Stock
Monday 20.01. 11:30 - 14:45 Seminarraum A, NIG 4. Stock
Monday 27.01. 11:30 - 14:45 Hörsaal C, NIG 4. Stock


Aims, contents and method of the course

The main goal of the course is to provide an introduction to anthropological perspectives on infrastructure. Our starting point is the observation that infrastructures, while planned and built by humans, have in turn significant impacts on people’s lives. It is only recently that the social sciences and humanities have engaged with infrastructure in earnest. Anthropology was a latecomer, but more recently there has been a veritable explosion of anthropological literature on the subject. A main thrust of anthropological infrastructure study has been to show how infrastructures become terrains for political engagement. While there is a long history of studying the social impacts of development projects, the social effects of infrastructure in the narrow sense – that is the material and organizational foundations of development – are rarely investigated. The course will address all aspects of infrastructures, without focusing on their technicalities but instead on human-infrastructure interactions. We will explore infrastructures as political and modernisation projects and social agents, while focusing on their promises, (mal)functioning, ruination and reconstruction as a process and as social networks. The course will have seminar character, meaning that student input and feedback will be central.

Assessment and permitted materials

A mandatory seminar paper will count for 50% (which equal 50 points) of the grade. The rest of the grade will be determined by short oral presentations and written handouts, as well as by course participation.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

In order to receive a passing grade, you need at least 60 points. A 'sehr gut' requires at least 90 out of 100 points (a 'gut' at least 80 points, etc.). Attendance is required throughout the semester.

The lecturer can invite students to a grade-relevant discussion about partial achievements. Partial achievements that are obtained by fraud or plagiarized result in the non-evaluation of the course (entry 'X' in certificate). From winter term 2019/20 the plagiarism software 'Turnitin' will be used for courses with continuous assessment.

Examination topics

There will be no exams.

Reading list

Anand, Nikhil
2017 Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Anand, Nikhil, Akhil Gupta, and Hannah Appel, eds.
2018 The Promise of Infrastructure. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Appel, Hannah C.
2012 Walls and White Elephants: Oil Extraction, Responsibility, and Infrastructural Violence in Equatorial Guinea. Ethnography 13(4):439-465.

Björkman, Lisa
2015 Pipe Politics, Contested Waters: Embedded Infrastructures of Millennial Mumbai. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Carey, Matthew, and Morten Axel Pedersen
2017 Introduction: Infrastructures of Certainty and Doubt. Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 35(2):18-29.

Carse, Ashley
2012 Nature as Infrastructure: Making and Managing the Panama Canal Watershed. Social Studies of Science 42(4):539-563.
2017 Keyword: Infrastructure - How a Humble French Engineering Term Shaped the Modern World. In Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion. P. Harvey, C.B. Jensen, and A. Morita, eds. Pp. 27-39. London: Routledge.

Carse, Ashley, and Joshua A. Lewis
2017 Toward a Political Ecology of Infrastructure Standards: Or, How to Think about Ships, Waterways, Sediment, and Communities Together. Environment and Planning A 49(1):9-28.

Chu, Yulie Y.
2014 When Infrastructures Attack: The Workings of Disrepair in China. American Ethnologist 41(2):351-367.

Edwards, Paul N.
2003 Infrastructure and Modernity: Force, Time, and Social Organization in the History of Sociotechnical Systems. In Modernity and Technology. T.J. Misa, P. Brey, and A. Feenberg, eds. Pp. 185-225. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Edwards, Paul N., et al.
2009 Introduction: An Agenda for Infrastructure Studies. Journal of the Association for Information Studies 10(5):365-374.

Harvey, Penelope
2012 The Topological Quality of Infrastructural Relation: An Ethnographic Approach. Theory, Culture & Society 29(4-5):76-92.

Harvey, Penelope, Casper Bruun Jensen, and Atsuro Morita
2017 Introduction: Infrastructural Complications. In Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion. P. Harvey, C.B. Jensen, and A. Morita, eds. Pp. 1-22. New York: Routledge.

Harvey, Penny, and Hannah Knox
2012 The Enchantments of Infrastructure. Mobilities 7(4):521-536.

Hetherington, Kregg, ed.
2019 Infrastructure, Environment, and Life in the Anthropocene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Howe, Cymene, et al.
2016 Paradoxical Infrastructures: Ruins, Retrofit, and Risk. Science, Technology, and Human Values 41(3):547-565.

Larkin, Brian
2008 Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
2013 The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology 42:327-343.

O’Neill, Bruce
2012 Of Camps, Gulags and Extraordinary Renditions: Infrastructural Violence in Romania. Ethnography 13(4):466–486.

Parks, Lisa, and Nicole Starosielski, eds.
2015 Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrstructures. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Star, Susan Leigh
1999 The Ethnography of Infrastructure. American Behavioral Scientist 43(3):377-391.
2002 Infrastructure and Ethnographic Practice. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems 14(2):107-122.

Starosielski, Nicole
2012 ‘Warning: Do Not Dig’: Negotiating the Visibility of Critical Infrastructures. Journal of Material Culture 11(1):38-57.
2015 The Undersea Network. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Venkatesan, Soumhya, et al.
2018 Attention to Infrastructure Offers a Welcome Reconfiguration of Anthropological Approaches to the Political. Critique of Anthropology 38(1):3-52.

von Schnitzler, Antina
2016 Democracy's Infrastructure: Techno-Politics and Protest after Apartheid. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:21