Infrastructural Attachments: Technologies, Mobility, and the Tensions of Home in Colonial and Postcolonial Kenya
February 22 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Date/Time: February 22nd 2023, @12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Speakers: Emma Park
Emma Park is an Assistant Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College, where she teaches courses on modern Africa, science and technology, global histories of capitalism, and the history of “development.” Her research uses infrastructure development projects to explore transformations in capitalism and state-craft. She mobilizes an ethnographically-informed reading of the cultural politics of infrastructures and work from the twentieth-century through to the present. She is currently revising my dissertation into a book manuscript tentatively entitled: Infrastructural Attachments: Technologies, Mobility, and the Tensions of Home in Colonial and Postcolonial Kenya. Through an exploration of three infrastructures ‘in the making’ —roads, radio, and Kenya’s now-famed telephonic banking service, M-PESA—she argues that infrastructures in Kenya have been deeply charged cultural, political, and economic objects. By contrast to the global north, infrastructures in Kenya did not seamlessly produce a ‘state-space.’ A combination of durable policies of colonial austerity and Kenya’s unique material environment has meant that infrastructures were uneven in their reach. This has had implications for the politics of belonging as the absence of infrastructures as much as their presence has shaped popular experiences of the state. She is working on a project with my colleague Kevin Donovan tentatively entitled The Digital Nation: Politics, Value, and Aspiration in Contemporary Kenya, which explores the entangled relationship between Kenya’s largest corporation, Safaricom (once a state-held entity) and the Kenyan state. She has published “Between the Nation and the State” – co-authored with Kevin P. Donovan. LIMN. (2016) Issue 7.