Universiteit Leiden

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FGGA Research Seminar: Pipe Politics, Contested Waters: Embedded Infrastructure of Millennial Mumbai

  • Lisa Björkman
Thursday 11 May 2017
FGGA Research Seminar Series Spring 2017
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague

In the seminar, Lisa Björkman will present her recent book Pipe Politics, Contested Waters: Embedded Infrastructure of Millennial Mumbai (Duke University Press, 2015). In the book, Björkman shows how an elite dream to transform Mumbai into a "world class" business center has wreaked havoc on the city’s water pipes. In rich ethnographic detail, Pipe Politics explores how the everyday work of getting water animates and inhabits a penumbra of infrastructural activity—of business, brokerage, secondary markets, and sociopolitical networks—whose workings are reconfiguring and rescaling political authority in the city. Mumbai’s increasingly illegible and volatile hydrologies, Björkman argues, are lending infrastructures increasing political salience just as actual control over pipes and flows becomes contingent on dispersed and intimate assemblages of knowledge, power, and material authority. These new arenas of contestation reveal the illusory and precarious nature of the project to remake Mumbai in the image of Shanghai or Singapore and gesture instead toward the highly contested futures and democratic possibilities of the actually existing city.

Short biography Lisa Björkman

Lisa Björkman is assistant professor in Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. She received her PhD in Politics from the New School for Social Research in 2012. Her dissertation project was a political ethnography about the encounter in the Indian city of Mumbai between liberalizing market reforms and the materially-dense politics of the city’s water infrastructures. This project resulted in the book Pipe Politics: Mumbai’s Contested Waters (Duke University Press, 2015), which received the American Institute of Indian Studies’ 2014 Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences. Recently, she has extended her previous work on material and infrastructural politics to look at the multiple and contesting iterations and urban imaginaries operative in contemporary Mumbai.

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