19. January 2016

Edited collection “Post-Socialist Urban Infrastructures”

Call for chapter proposals

Relicts of a never-completed transport project: trolley-bus poles on the outskirts of Khujand in northern Tajikistan (Photo: W. Sgibnev)

We are planning on compiling a collection on “Post-Socialist Urban Infrastructures” for Routledge’s Planning and Urban Design book series. The proposed collection departs from the observation that the existing literature on post-socialist urban infrastructures is, firstly, mainly focused on energy; secondly, scattered among multiple topics and, thirdly, lacking relation to the existing and expanding theoretical literature on infrastructures (e.g., Amin, 2014; Graham & Marvin, 2001; Graham & McFarlane, 2014). This collection of articles aims to provide a more comprehensive and theoretically-substantiated framework regarding urban infrastructures, which have both been shaped by and have contributed to shape the post-socialist transformation. Analysing infrastructure is thus also a way to approach post-socialist cities more generally.

We are interested in the interplay of infrastructure politics, discourses and materialities, with a following research focus on:

  • Politics of urban infrastructures: Analysing actors and practices that shape how infrastructures are defined, used, contested and negotiated (Goheen, 1998; Low and Smith, 2006) both in daily life and in governmental processes such as planning. Thus, the politics of infrastructure display multiple and often conflicting interests and practices coming from different civil, economic, administrative and political stakeholders with regards to the use, disuse, maintenance or construction of urban infrastructures.
  • Discourses of urban infrastructures: Exploring the implicit or explicit agendas that drive and shape the politics of infrastructure and display broader and conflicting discourses in society. In this perspective, both infrastructure politics and materialities are vectors and results of prevalent normative discourses on neo-liberalism, Soviet nostalgia, democracy and sustainability. Thus, infrastructural policies/discourses are in many ways embedded in the dominant post-socialist narratives.
  • The materiality of urban infrastructures: Examining the persistence and transformation, the maintenance, upgrading and demise of physical infrastructure as a product, background and topic of urban politics and policies (Collier, 2011). Drawing on Latour (2005) and other socio-technology scholars as well as critical literature on material politics (Barry, 2013; Braun & Whatmore, 2010), materiality influences social process. Thus, infrastructures should not be perceived as passive recipients of policies and politics but also as actants in the socio-material construction of urban spaces.

The papers should bring empirical and theoretical insights in the discussion around post-socialist and post-Soviet infrastructure, by providing evidence from the region itself, and/or by providing comparative perspectives from other regions. In doing so, the contributions should focus on one of the following types of infrastructure:

  • Transport infrastructure. This is not an exhaustive list of topics, but researchers could for example address issues such as the shift from public to private investment; cases of state failure; flagship projects such as motorways and international railway lines; EU involvement and ideas of ‘Europeanisation’; transport innovations (such as marshrutkas) as well as civil protest against roads and street layouts.

  • Green urban infrastructures. The topics covered here are not limited to the following examples either, but could for instance discuss environmental degradation and decontamination; socio-cultural, ecological and economic benefits and losses of green infrastructure; its planning and implementation as well as decay and reconstruction. Drawing upon a broad understanding of green infrastructure, contributions could deal with issues pertaining to all kinds of natural and semi-natural areas as well as multifunctional open spaces such as parks, forests, squares, allotment gardens and summer cottages, wastelands and areas of spontaneous vegetation.

  • Housing as ‘infrastructured’. Topics covered here can include, among others, questions and problems related to heating, electricity and other housing services such as waste; to sewage, water supply and privatisations; to tensions arising between collective systems and individual infrastructure management; to different infrastructural rights (such as access to heating, water and common areas).

The proposed length of the paper is 9,000 words with a provisional deadline for completed papers set for November 2016.

If you are interested in contributing to the book, please send us an abstract of 250 words outlining the proposed paper and containing your main argument(s), your main conceptual and theoretical approaches as well as a brief overview of the empirical material. Please also include your contact information and affiliation. The deadline for the call for proposals is February the 29th, 2016.

Book editors

Tauri Tuvikene,Tallinn University
Wladimir Sgibnev, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography
Carola S. Neugebauer, RWTH Aachen University


Amin, A. (2014): Lively Infrastructure. Theory Culture & Society. 31: 7-8, 137-161

Barry, A. (2013): Material Politics: Disputes along the Pipeline. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell

Braun, B. & S. J. Whatmore (Eds.) (2010): Political Matter: Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life. Minneapolis & London, University of Minnesota Press

Collier, S.  J. (2011): Post-Soviet Social: Neoliberalism, Social Modernity, Biopolitics. Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press

Goheen, P. G. (1998): Public space and the geography of the modern city. Progress in Human Geography. 22: 4, 479-496

Graham, S. & S. Marvin (2001): Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilites and the Urban Condition. London & New York, Routledge

Graham, S. & C. McFarlane (2014): Infrastructural Lives: Urban Infrastructure in Context. London, Routledge

Latour, B. (2005): Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford, Oxford University Press

Low, S. M. & N. Smith (2006): The Politics of Public Space. London, Routledge

Download call for chapter proposals (pdf 150 kb)



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