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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2019

Overlooked pasts and fragile futures: the age of infrastructure maintenance


Urban studies have long demonstrated the importance of large networked infrastructures that have forged the ‘modern’ cities of the global North (Coutard and Rutherford, 2016; Tarr and Dupuy, 1988). This coincided with the extension and equipment phase of growing urban territories. One such equipment era seems to be well completed and universalized in these urban contexts, and seems to be substituted by a long neglected dimension of integrated infrastructure management, the age of maintenance (Graham and Thrift, 2007). Maintenance practices offer a unique entry point for investigating overlooked dimensions of infrastructures lives. Because they deal with the mundane and the unspectacular, they notably contrast with more traditional issues such as the political implications for infrastructural development or the dramatic consequences of infrastructure collapses (or threat thereof) (Denis and Pontille, 2017) Drawing on an in-depth study on the maintenance of water networks and practices of asset management in various French urban contexts, we will show that, far from being an inert technical substrate that maintainers would only have to mechanically supervise, infrastructures remain partly obscure and unknown, even to those who are supposed to take care of them, and even in a country from the global North. By doing so, we will show how maintenance practices are shaping the ordinary management of the infrastructures and are reversely shaped by them. Through the lens of these maintenance practices, French water infrastructures appear as elusive sociotechnical assemblages whose present, but also past, are investigated in order to consolidate their fragile future.
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Dates et versions

hal-02379414 , version 1 (25-11-2019)


  • HAL Id : hal-02379414 , version 1


Jérôme Denis, Daniel Florentin. Overlooked pasts and fragile futures: the age of infrastructure maintenance. Infrastructural futures across cities of the global north, Sep 2019, Manchester, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-02379414⟩
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