Just Powers Podcast

S3E3 – The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times

In this episode we read “The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times” by Lauren Berlant. This article was published in the 2016 (Volume 34) edition of Society and Space, an international and interdisciplinary scholarly and political project hosted by SAGE Journals.

In this essay, Lauren Berlant provides a concept of structure for transitional times, with the caveat that all times are, indeed, transitional. Focusing on the need to analyse infrastructures beyond just repair and replacement, Berlant explores how structural forms born from brokenness might go beyond the exigencies of current crises, offering alternative visions of infrastructural transformation.

“All times are transitional. But at some crisis times like this one, politics is defined by a collectively held sense that a glitch has appeared in the reproduction of life. A glitch is an interruption within a transition, a troubled transmission. A glitch is also the revelation of an infrastructural failure. The repair or replacement of broken infrastructure is, in this book’s argument, necessary for any form of sociality to extend itself: but my interest is in how that extension can be non-reproductive, generating a form from within brokenness beyond the exigencies of the current crisis, and alternatively to it too. But a few definitional problems arise from this observation. One is about what repair, or the beyond of glitch, looks like both generally and amid a catastrophe; the other is defining what kind of form of life an infrastructure is. These definitional questions are especially central to contemporary counter-normative political struggle” (p. 393).

This article has been made available with permission from SAGE Journals.

Reference: Berlant, Lauren. “The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2016, Vol. 34(3), pp. 393–419. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0263775816645989?journalCode=epda