Urban Studies Online presents the Labouring Urban Infrastructures digital magazine

by Hanna Ruszczyk, Kathleen Stokes and Alejandro De Coss

26 Mar 2020, 3:44 p.m.
Hanna Ruszczyk, Kathleen Stokes and Alejandro De Coss

Labouring Urban Infrastructures magazine cover

From the ‘infrastructural age’ to crises of care, infrastructures have taken a paramount place within contemporary discourse and debates. Promises of better futures; the ruination of projects past; increasingly automatised ways of consuming and producing; intensifying socioeconomic inequality and splintering urbanisms – our lives are constantly being made and remade through infrastructures. As policymakers and residents have become increasingly cognisant of the monumental influence of infrastructures, scholarly inquiry has thoroughly reframed how we understand socionatures, political ecologies, and the many processes and practices that shape urban life. Amidst this burgeoning research, increasing attention is being drawn to the work and workers of infrastructure.


The Labouring Urban Infrastructures magazine sought to deepen and broader discussions surrounding infrastructural work and labour. Utilising a creative form where researchers could experiment, be provocative, and test new ideas, the magazine reflects a moment of exploration and exchange. We came together not as scholars of labour, but predominantly interested in urban and infrastructural lives, governance, economies, and imaginaries. We collaboratively reflected upon our ways of thinking about, and analysing, infrastructural labour over two days. As such, this magazine is not complete, perfect, or static. The ideas presented within will continue to evolve as we reframe and reconsider labour within our own studies and across our different fields of research. We hope, however, that our arguments and reflections can help to broaden current conceptualisations of infrastructural labour, raising its visibility - where appropriate.


The different individual contributions raise questions about the visibility and representation of labour within infrastructures, in particular, and the urban in general. They explore spaces of care, maintenance, production and reproduction in different cities across the world, providing a snapshot of current processes, practices and research taking place in various geographies and scales. To encourage reflection across these contributions, we also offer short collectively written interludes, focusing on questions capital, visibility and invisibility and feminist approaches to infrastructure. Each interlude offers a particular lens that emerged from our workshop discussions, and further highlights the collective nature of this magazine. We hope that these collective interventions, alongside the diversity of research sites, topics, methods and arguments entice you to read the magazine in different ways.


Labouring Urban Infrastructures is the collective work of eighteen postgraduate researchers and early career scholars, who met at a workshop in Durham (UK) to discuss and deliberate new ways of understanding labour within urban infrastructures and geography.


The full magazine can be accessed here: http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/institutes/mui/InfrastructuresZine191007.pdf


The magazine and workshop were co-organised by:

  •   Hanna Ruszczyk, an early career researcher from the Department of Geography and the Institute of Hazard, Risk, and Resilience (IHRR) at Durham University;
  •   Kathleen Stokes, postdoctoral researcher at Trinity College Dublin (previously PhD student at the Department of Geography and Manchester Urban Institute at the University of Manchester);
  •   Alejandro De Coss, postdoctoral researcher at Durham University (previously PhD student at the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics).




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