How can infrastructure improve life in fragmented cities, now and in the future?

Tue, 11 May 2021, 15:30 CEST

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How can infrastructure be chosen, planned, designed, implemented, maintained, enhanced, and used to improve human well-being in formal and informal urban areas? The sustained functioning of infrastructural systems has multiple positive effects on human health and wellbeing. Infrastructure is therefore central to the UN Sustainable Development agenda, featuring in and contributing to most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; Goals 1, 3, 5-14 among others). The lack of access to sanitation, water, transport, energy or communication infrastructure can curtail sustainable development and entrench existing or create new social inequality dynamics, for instance in further stigmatising the urban poor.

The INFRA+ webinar series aims to identify links between context-specific infrastructural challenges, approaches to their solution and universal mechanisms towards improved sustainability. Speakers from across academia and practice with a focus on East and Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East present their unique disciplinary perspectives and propose transdisciplinary directions for future research.


Giulia Maci, Cities Alliance

Dr Beatriz Mella Lira, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Dr Anna Plyushteva, University of Oxford

Chair: Dr Debapriya Chakrabarti


Giulia Maci Cities for Women - Making better cities for Everyone

Women experience and use the urban environment in different ways from men; they have different priorities in terms of services and infrastructure, for example regarding transport, housing, and public spaces. Such priorities rarely feature in urban policy or investments - leading to exclusion and lost opportunity for both women and society in general. There needs to be a holistic understanding of how social inequalities are built into cities through an exploration that combines cultural norms, social behaviours, political structures, and the physical space. Therefore, it is so important to incorporate the perceptions, stories, and ideas of women and community members in city planning. The lecture will focus on why and how we have to plan and build cities that are gender-inclusive, all the way from vision to infrastructure and services.

Dr Beatriz Mella Lira Challenges of public infrastructure for sustainable transportation in Latin American cities 

The presentation will address the main challenges for designing, planning and developing public infrastructure for sustainable transport, considering the improvement of cycling, walkability, intermodality and electric public transport. The challenges assess the current social, cultural, and epidemiological circumstances, considering how decision-making can respond to the pandemic's recent experiences in the Latin American context.

Dr Anna Plyushteva - Infrastructural intersections, everyday disruptions, and the work of care

As part of the so-called infrastructural turn in the social sciences, researchers have contested the view of infrastructures as technical systems confined to their own sectoral silos such as energy, water, or transport. A growing body of work seeks to challenge such divisions, and to formulate a notion of infrastructure as not only made up of socio-material relations, but specifically of relations which span across pre-defined sectors. However, how and by whom are these intersections brought into being, how are they sustained and transformed? Beyond mechanistic metaphors of articulations and embeddedness, the links between different infrastructures remain an under-theorised and under-researched topic. In this talk, I draw on empirical vignettes to illustrate the ways in which the everyday work of care makes, and makes visible, the intersectional connections of different infrastructural systems. These examples from London (UK), Manila (Philippines) and Sofia (Bulgaria) focus on the links of urban transport and mobility systems with other sectors such as water and healthcare, tracing the ongoing, open-ended care work of weaving together, repairing, and letting go.

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