We are all at least vaguely aware of the multitude of infrastructures that undergird our everyday lives: the global shipping and storage services that bring goods to our homes, the electronic networks that move our money from one account to another, the digital protocols that shape our experiences online. This course treats these infrastructures not as purely material objects (the province of engineers or computer scientists), but rather as densely social phenomena.

Drawing on an interdisciplinary, social scientific literature on topics ranging from sewers to SWIFT, the course examines the complex, materially mediated webs of relations and practices that make infrastructures work. This approach highlights a distinct set of concerns. We will examine not only how infrastructures function, but how they produce distributive consequences, alter the nature of politics, articulate with legal and organisational arrangements, and embed beliefs, values, and ways of understanding the world. This situates our analysis of infrastructure as part of a broader concern with the nature of power in hybrid, socio-material environments.

The course will provide a set of theoretical and methodological tools for analysing how infrastructures entrench inequalities and expand methods of dominance and control on the one hand, while generating new strategies and means for contesting orders of rule on the other.