14 Nov 2017
Urban fragments and discards
Cases from India and Senegal

Speakers : Colin Mc Farlane and Rosalind Fredericks
Moderator : Karel Arnaut
Location : Auditorium STUK, Naamsestraat 96, Leuven


Colin McFarlane, Urban geographer, Durham University
Fragment urbanism: life and politics on the margins of the city

In this presentation, I develop a conceptualisation of ‘fragment urbanism’ as one route to understanding the experience and politics of life on the margins of global urbanism. For many denizens of global urbanism, urban life is a repeated encounter and labouring with broken, insufficient, or inadequate infrastructure, shelter, and service. But how might fragments in the city be conceptualised? Are fragments merely the scant by-products of capitalist urbanisation, or might they also be something more? Does paying attention to fragments have implications for the kinds of political questions we might ask of cities? If fragments exist as fragments because of the wider relations of power, politics and economy in which they are embedded, they are not just the shattered products of those processes. Developing a conceptualisation of fragments in the city, I argue that fragments can be generative processes that mark more than the limits of urban life and politics.


Rosalind Fredericks, Associate Professor at NYU

Garbage Citizenship: Infrastructures of Salvage Bricolage in Dakar, Senegal.

Rosalind Fredericks will present from her forthcoming book, Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Duke University Press).  The book provides an ethnography chronicling the history of garbage politics in Dakar over the last twenty-five years.  In Senegal’s neoliberal era, Dakar’s city streets have periodically become inundated with household trash as the city’s garbage infrastructure has taken center stage in struggles over government, the value of labor, and the dignity of the working poor. Urban austerity has accelerated a mode of governing through disposability that works through fragmented infrastructure investments which render urban labor increasingly precarious.  At the same time, through municipal garbage strikes and concerted neighborhood dumping, garbage activists have forced a collective reckoning with labor insecurity and uneven urban services. Often framed through discourses of Islamic piety, their struggles have provided a potent language to critique Senegal’s neoliberal trajectory and assert rights to fair labor.  Drawing on this rich history, Fredericks’ bridges old and new materialist debates to foreground the vital infrastructures of labor that underpin urban citizenship struggles and to ground the practice of citizenship in the mundane, gritty material of the city. Ostensibly neutral everyday infrastructural systems are revealed to contain complex socio-technical and spiritual worlds stitched together through expert labors of salvage bricolage. Garbage, moreover, is revealed to be a powerful matter of urban citizenship. 


Colin McFarlane is an urban geographer whose work focuses on the experience and politics of informal neighborhoods. This has involved research into the relations between informality, infrastructure, and knowledge in urban India and elsewhere. A key part of this has been a focus on the experience and politics of sanitation in informal settlements in Mumbai, which was part of an Economic and Social Research Council ethnographic project on the everyday cultures and contested politics of sanitation and water in two informal settlements. His current work examines the politicisation of informal neighborhoods in comparative perspective, including African and South Asian cities. He is author of 'Learning the City: Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage' (Blackwell), a book focused on the intersections between urban inequality, materiality, resistance and learning, as well as related edited collections, including: 'Infrastructural Lives: Urban Infrastructure in Context' (Earthscan-Routledge, with Steve Graham), 'Urban Navigations: Politics, Space and the City in South Asia' (Routledge, with Jonathan Anjaria), and 'Urban Informalities: Reflections on the Formal and Informal' (Ashgate, with Michael Waibel). In 2013, he was awarded the Leverhulme Prize for his research in urban geography. In 2010, he was awarded the Gill Memorial Award from the Royal Geographical Society for contributions to urban geography, and in 2009 a fellowship for his work on sanitation from Berlin's Irmgard Coninx Foundation in conjunction with Humboldt University.

Rosalind Fredericks is an Associate Professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.  After completing her PhD in geography at the University of California, Berkeley, she was a postdoctoral research scholar with the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University.  Trained as an urban and cultural geographer, her research interests are centered on urban development, citizenship, political ecology, infrastructure, and geographies of waste in Africa.  Her research has won major funding support from the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-Hays, and the National Science Foundation, and she was NYU’s Stephen Charney Vladeck Junior Faculty Fellow from 2015-2016.  In addition to her forthcoming manuscript, Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal, Fredericks has edited two books with Mamadou Diouf on citizenship in African cities: Les Arts de la Citoyenneté au Sénégal: Espaces Contestés et Civilités Urbaines (Editions Karthala, 2013) and The Arts of Citizenship in African Cities: Infrastructures and Spaces of Belonging (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014)


Frederick, R.   Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal.Duke University Press, 2018


DEBATES 2017/2018
17 Oct 2017
Cases from India and Ethiopia
31 Oct 2017
Cases from Brazil and West-Africa
14 Nov 2017
Cases from India and Senegal
28 Nov 2017
Cases from Berlin and Johannesburg
12 Dec 2017
Cases from Liberia and South-Africa