Institute of African Studies - Columbia University

Infrastructural Life in Africa Conference

Event Details

Infrastructural Life in Africa Conference
March 6, 2015 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
Sulzberger Parlor, Barnard Hall (Broadway & 119th Street)

This conference explores infrastructures, their rise and decay, their imbrication in political and religious movements and the forms of life they give rise to in everyday Africa. 

Aurelien Gillier, Paris
Jacqueline Klopp, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Claudia Gastrow, Wits Univerisity
Adedomola Osinulu, University of Michigan
Golda Kosi Onyeneho, Washington University in St. Louis
Elizabeth Gelber, Columbia University
Clapperton Mavhunga, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mhoze Chokowero, University of California Santa Barbara
Ato Quayson, University of Toronto

Brain Larkin, Barnard College
Rosalind Morris, Columbia University
Jesse Shipley, Haverford College

Conference Abstract
Infrastructures are technologies that undergird the organization of modern societies in Africa. Yet they also produce the ambient experience of everyday life – the smell of a place, the feeling of its temperature, its luminescence or darkness, and the sense of speed or breakdown. Everyday life is comprised of a series of ubiquitous yet ephemeral events, produced in part by infrastructures, yet that slip between the borders of academic analysis. What is the experience of sitting on a bus, waiting for a document to come back from a bureaucrat, securing electricity supply, living next to a noisy generator? What sensory experiences accompany and frame these everyday activities in urban spaces? Through this conference, we seek to examine the ephemeral forms of sensual and aesthetic experience that infrastructures provoke and see how these quotidian experiences are exemplary of broader political, social, and economic realities. We examine both infrastructural technologies themselves and the forms of life those technologies give rise to. 

The Conference is followed by a reception and photo exhibition featuring the work of Aurelien Gillier from 5:30pm - 7:00pm on the 2nd floor of Knox Hall, 606 W. 122nd Street (between Claremont & Broadway)

Conference Program:

9:00 am – 9:30 am

Opening remarks
9:30 am – 10:00 am
Brian Larkin, Barnard College

Panel 1: Infrastructural life in Africa 
10:00 am - 11:45 am

Infrastructural life in Bamako—views from the street
Aurelien Gillier, Photographer

Navigating Nairobi (or not): maps, mobilization and the digital Matatus Project
Jacqueline Klopp, Columbia University

Sensual experience of urban infrastructure in Angola
Claudia Gastrow, Wits University

Discussant: Rosalind Morris, Columbia University


12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Panel 2: Infrastructural decay and renewal
1:00 pm – 2:45 pm

Pentecostal churches and remaking of factories and labor. Repurposing abandoned factories
Adedamola Osinulu, University of Michigan

Decaying public infrastructure
Golda Kosi Onyeneho, Washington University, St Louis

Making and unmaking of a social world: breaking and entering pipelines in the Nigerian oil fields
Elizabeth Gelber, Columbia University

Discussant: Jesse Shipley, Haverford College

2:45 pm – 3:15 pm

Panel 3: Infrastructural forms of life and experience
3:15 pm -5:00 pm

Imagining infrastructure from Dzimbahwe
Clapperton Mavhunga, MIT

Rukeshenj: architectures of control, African performative innovations
Mhoze Chikowero, UCSB

Spatial morphology and the infrastructures of street life
Ato Quayson, Toronto University

Discussant: Brian Larkin, Barnard College

Reception & photography exhibit
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Reception to be held at the Institute of African Studies
Knox Hall, Floor 2
606 West 122nd Street
Knox Hall is located between Claremont & Broadway