Rethinking Infrastructure

While infrastructure constitutes a basic dimension of human life, it is widely taken as a matter of course. In a sense, this is what makes it infrastructure in the first place: if it works, it no longer has to be reflected upon but retreats to a deeper level of human consciousness and social organization. The major crises of recent years, however, suggest that infrastructure needs to be taken into consideration, and what is more: that it needs to be fundamentally rethought.

Streets and bridges that are swept away by floods; health care and social security systems that collapse in the face of a pandemic; social orders that change within weeks because of a military offensive: these are all examples of infrastructure crises. Mere technical improvements to existing infrastructures will not suffice to meet such crises. Rather, we need to question on a fundamental level what we mean when we speak of infrastructures, what role we assign to them, and how we can handle them more flexibly.

These questions require a comprehensive cultural-studies approach. The core topic of the CCI therefore assembles researchers from multiple disciplines to rethink infrastructure from historical, literary, social, culturally-comparative and other perspectives. Among the research foci will be the cultural dimensions of material and technical infrastructures; and the interplay of material and immaterial infrastructures in areas like digitality, art, normative hierarchies, and social systems.