Conference Panel — — — The ‘Infrastructural turn’ in urban studies

A joint panel by the EHU Laboratory of Critical Urbanism and Minsk Urban Platform at the 8th International Congress of Belarusian Studies (Vilnius, 27-29 of September 2019)

Co-organisers: Dr Siarhei Liubimau (EHU Laboratory of Critical Urbanism) and Dr Andrey Vozyanov (EHU and Minsk Urban Platform)


Infrastructure can sound like one of the buzzwords that has arisen since the monopoly of structure was contested by urban theoreticians. The ‘Infrastructural Turn’ places the focus on the most mundane everyday performances of mobility, communication and body management, demonstrating their meaningfulness for the social order and its spatial forms (Leigh 1999, Graham and Marvin 2001, Simone 2004, Larkin 2008, Graham 2010, Graham and McFarlane 2014, Gupta 2015). In the post-socialist context, infrastructures seem to be an overlooked part of what is called the “socialist legacy”, since this legacy has more often been sought in cultural forms (both material and immaterial heritage), bureaucratic arrangements and economic processes. However, some have recently argued that Soviet totalitarianism was essentially an infrastructural phenomenon; and furthermore that there are infrastructural features of the USSR that have stalled neoliberal economic and political reforms in Post-Soviet Russia (Collier 2011). How can we identify the isomorphism between infrastructures, institutions, and everyday and political cultures in Belarus, a country which is often depicted as ‘the most Soviet’ ex-USSR state? How has this isomorphism been (and how could it be) unpacked and presented in political expertise on Belarus (from technological determinism to social constructivism)? What do we learn if we compare the isomorphism in the Belarusian case with other cases in the region? How does digitalization re-define this isomorphism?

Ethnographic approaches to the use of housing, public transport, the Internet and governance can be productive in understanding contingencies and disruptions in post-socialist transition, evolving inequalities, and emerging challenges and opportunities, as well as the individual lifeworlds of diverse users and non-users. For the entire post-Soviet region, the ‘infrastructural turn’ proposes re-thinking familiar questions of path dependence, nostalgia and nationalism with the help of new lenses: how are old, ageing, outdated, functional and dysfunctional artifacts present in urban spaces involved in new post-Soviet institutions, practices, narratives and representations? How are the meanings of material artifacts and assemblages redefined in new political/social conditions? Which temporal conditions do material remainders create for cities in transition? What is the role (or challenge) of infrastructural remains, “ghosts”, and echoes in societies where a longing for the past persists? What are noteworthy artistic depictions (film, literature, theatre, contemporary art, etc.) of the infrastructural factor in social processes?


  • Notions for City/Industry Relations
  • Infrastructures and Identities
  • Post-Soviet Infrastructures and Nostalgia
  • Digitalisation as an Urban Infrastructural Phenomenon
  • Artistic Depictions (film, literature, theatre, contemporary art, etc.) of the Infrastructural Factor in Post-Soviet Social Processes

Participation fee – 10 euros for speakers from the ex-USSR states (in terms of institutional affiliation); 60 euros for all other speakers.

Organisers will be able to cover travel and accommodation for a limited number of speakers.

Abstracts to be submitted by May 25, 2019 via the Congress webpage

Disciplinary Area – “Society and social institutions” (12.3.b “The ‘Infrastructural Turn’ In Urban Studies”)