Infrastructural politics: a conceptual mapping and critical review

León Felipe Téllez Contreras*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The notion of infrastructural politics has been increasingly used in urban studies as
it helps to explore urbanisation processes, the urban condition, and urban life. Given its
relevance, this article maps out and critically reviews the main analytical strands that inform
its meanings, namely, conventional and popular infrastructural politics. These strands reveal
the current tendency to demarcate infrastructural politics as two separate, antagonistic domains that associate the notion with particular hegemonic and subaltern actors, practices, and processes. The article problematises this tendency and proposes a broader understanding of infrastructural politics as an ordinary and contentious political arena where diverse actors
develop politico-infrastructural repertoires that co-exist in multifaceted, conflictive ways rather than as separate domains. Drawing on political ethnographic understandings of politics, infrastructural politics is conceived as a point of convergence where conventional and popular infrastructural politics meet and mesh. This suggests the possibility of cross-fertilising
conversations between infrastructure studies and political ethnography that can refine our
understanding of infrastructural politics. First, by promoting a more nuanced examination of
the overlaps and interdependencies between hegemonic and subaltern politico-infrastructural actors and practices, and second, by addressing the critical role of infrastructures in enabling and materialising such overlaps and interdependencies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalUrban Studies
Early online date8 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 May 2024


  • infrastructure
  • politics
  • urban theory
  • urban life
  • subalternity


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