Research Seminar Series: Infrastructural incompleteness: Perspectives from smart city experiments in/from the Global South

Presenter: Dr Prince K Guma, University of Sheffield

This talk embarks from a fairly modest premise that asks: how does the concept of incompleteness reshape our perspectives on and theories about urban infrastructure and infrastructural futures? In tackling this inquiry, I delve into infrastructure’s temporal and spatial incompleteness, drawing perspectives from smart city experiments, technologies, and practices in/from the global South. Consequently, I propose a conceptual framework that accentuates the partial, provisional, and contingent processes and practices involved in shaping and reshaping infrastructures. This framework underscores the significance of context-specific and temporal engagements, negotiations, and relationships. I demonstrate that rather than reproaching unfamiliar or unconventional infrastructural progressions and development processes, it is imperative to disentangle them and to better understand them as manifestations of infrastructure's incomplete and evolving futures. In this light, I advocate for the need to create room for alternative theories that elucidate how cities engender novel forms of urbanism and infrastructure futures, transcending dominant and hegemonic forms and articulations.

Prince Guma is a Research Associate at the Urban Institute, University of Sheffield. His work explores the multiple ways through which cities and infrastructure domains are constructed and reconstructed through the diffusion and uptake of new plans, ideas, and technologies. It is aimed to provide a menu for new explorations, enhance our understanding of urban possibilities, and add new insights to debates on technology and urbanity in the Global South and elsewhere.