Thinking through Heterogeneous Infrastructure Configurations

Mary Lawhon, David Nilsson, Jonathan Silver, Henrik Ernstson, Shuaib Lwasa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of infrastructure have demonstrated broad differences between Northern and Southern cities, and deconstructed urban theory derived from experiences of the networked urban regions of the global North. This includes critiques of the universalization of the historically-culturally produced normative ideal of universal, uniform infrastructure. We introduce the notion of “heterogeneous infrastructure configurations” (HICs) as a way to analyze urban infrastructure that builds on postcolonial critiques of knowledge, as well as ethnographies of everyday Southern urbanisms. We argue that the notion of HIC helps us to move beyond technological and performative accounts of actually existing infrastructures to provide an analytical lens through which to compare different configurations. Our approach enables a clearer analysis of infrastructural artifacts not as individual objects but as parts of geographically spread socio-technological configurations: configurations which might involve many different kinds technologies, relations, capacities and operations, entailing different risks and power relationships. We use examples from ongoing research on sanitation and waste in Kampala, Uganda- a city in which service delivery is characterized by multiplicity, overlap, disruption and inequality- to demonstrate the kinds of research questions that emerge when thinking through the notion of HICs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720
Number of pages732
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number4
Early online date21 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventHeterogenous Infrastructures Conference - Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Duration: 12 Nov 201815 Nov 2018


  • Southern theory
  • infrastructure
  • provincialising theory
  • urban political ecology
  • urban theory

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Manchester Energy
  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute


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