Urban Vulnerabilities: Infrastructure, health and stigma
This interdisciplinary one-day workshop, co-funded by the Institute of Advanced Studies as part of its Vulnerability research theme and organised by the Development Planning Unit at the Bartlett School of Architecture, will explore the link between infrastructures, in particular those related to sanitation, and urban vulnerability and stigma. It will engage both early-career and established scholars from a range of fields – including Architecture and Planning, Urban Geography, Critical Legal Studies, and Political Science – in a critical dialogue and encourage alternative presentation formats.
The importance of questions surrounding infrastructure-based vulnerability has recently come into sharp focus in the UK. Government deregulation and opposition to ‘health and safety’ measures have had an appreciable impact on lives and survival, as was seen in the Grenfell Tower fire and thousands of premature deaths from smog in London. Taking into account the contemporary nature and renewed urgency of understanding infrastructural stigma and vulnerability, the workshop will seek to address the following questions, among others:
- How do we understand particularly urban forms of vulnerability, and what role do infrastructures, (lack of) health provisions, and stigma play in them?
- If, following Douglas and Kristeva, we understand dirt as ‘matter out of place’, or a form of transgression, how should we understand the role of stigma attached to lack of hygiene in intra-urban bordering processes?
- How can we theorise the dual capacity of infrastructures to address vulnerabilities and create them? Who is deemed ‘vulnerable’ and what kind of interventions does such labelling entail (aid, surveillance, rehousing/displacement, humanitarian intervention, institutionalisation)? How can we attend to the violent potentials of urban sanitisation and health?
- If the city itself is viewed as a vulnerable organism, what type of intervention are through to heal it, make it ‘healthy’, or ‘resilient’? And what might such medical language reveal or conceal?
- What kind of politics may emerge from embracing vulnerability (Butler 2016), and how do these sit with discourses of ‘resilience’ (MacKinnon and Driscoll Derickson 2012), or ‘cruel’ forms of optimism (Berlant 2011)?