“Critical infrastructure”, “infrastructural resilience” and “resilient critical infrastructure” - all these buzzwords have been ample mentioned at this year’s International Symposium on Next Generation Infrastructures (ISNGI).
Yet as Dr. Jiska Engelbert contests in her talk “The Politics of Critical Infrastructure” these concepts are rarely challenged, interrogated or critically reflected upon. Reflection, she argues, is not only important because of reflection's sake, but because these concepts have real-life consequences, in that they reduce infrastructures to matters.
In a conference dominated by talks on “Next Generation Infrastructure”, Dr. Engelbert brings attention back to those people who are at risk or negatively impacted by “critical infrastructure” now: low wage, unprotected and exploited workers like the crews at Schiphol, workers in the digital gig economy or cleaners at university. But also, communities living (and dying) next to expanding airports, gas extraction sites, chemical and steel plants, datacentres, and university campuses.
Similarly, those people and institutions that benefit from current approaches to infrastructure are often obscured and thus fail to be investigated.
In order to “write people back into infrastructure”, discussions about “next generation infrastructure” cannot be held by engineers, designers and economists alone – but need to involve the arts, social scientists, and most importantly those people and communities “always and already at risk”.
Read Dr. Engelbert's full contribution to the ISNGI in the attachment below.