Infrastructure Otherwise? Cartographies of Settler Colonialism, Resistance and Repair

Masterclass and ASCA Cities Public Talk by Dr. Deborah Cowen (University of Toronto)

organized by ASCA Cities Project in collaboration with NICA

April 15th, 2019

Public Talk: April 15th, 15.00 – 18.00 uur, Doelenzaal in de UB

“Infrastructure Otherwise? Cartographies of Settler Colonialism, Resistance and Repair”

Despite commitments to systemic and institutional change in the wake of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ‘Canada 150’ celebrations proceeded apace over the summer of 2017. Festivities were awash with the language of reconciliation, but performed amnesia regarding both historic and ongoing state violence, including the very act of celebrating ‘replacement’. Indigenous people organized against the whitewashed birthday festivities, insisting that struggles over pipelines, damns, and drinking water offered a better diagnosis of ‘Nation to Nation’ relations. Drawing attention to the infrastructure that underpins contemporary settler colonialism, water and land protectors expose ties that are long and bind tight. In fact, ‘Canada 150’ also marks the completion of the national railroad on which settler state confederation relied. The CPR was famously referred to as ‘the spine of the nation’, but it was built on Indigenous, Black, and Chinese backs. This talk explores the key role of infrastructure in the formation and contestation of settler colonial space. It traces a set of cartographies that cut across nationalist narratives to foreground the violent ways infrastructure holds us together across time and space. Tracking the making of this ‘national spine’ through the transnational slave trade, indigenous dispossession, and violent racial capitalism, but also through work of resistance and repair, this talk asks what decolonial infrastructures might look like.

Readings for public talk
  • Coward, Martin (2015) “Hot Spots/Cold Spots: Infrastructural Politics in the Urban Age.” International Political Sociology. 96-98.
  • Kipfer, S. (2018) “Pushing the limits of Urban research: Urbanization, pipelines and counter-colonial politics.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36(3) 474–493.
  • Murphy, Michelle (2013) “Distributed Reproduction, Chemical Violence, and Latency.” S&F Online.
  • Cowen, Deborah (2018) “The Jurisdiction of Infrastructure: Circulation and Canadian Settler Colonialism.” The Funambulist. 14-19.

Masterclass: April 15th, 10.00 – 12.00 uur, Potgieterzaal in de UB

Registration: nica-fgw@uva.nl

Readings for masterclass 

  • Cowen, Deborah (2014) “The Citizenship of Stuff in the Global Social Factory,” in The Deadly Life of Logistics. University of Minnesota Press.
  • —  “Logistics Cities: The “Urban Heart” of Empire” in The Deadly Life of Logistics. University of Minnesota Press.
  • — (2017) “Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance” Verso Blog, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3067-infrastructures-of-empire-and-resistance
Readings available by emailing: