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Public Infrastructures/Infrastructural Publics

The Preface to Limn #7 — “Public Infrastructures/Infrastructural Publics,” which I edited with Antina von Schnitzler and Chris Mizes  — is now online! The issue is worth checking out in full. See the description and list of contributors (with links to their articles) below.

Infrastructure has always had a privileged relationship to both expertise and the public in modern government. But in the early 21st century, this relationship is inflected in novel ways. The purposes public infrastructure was meant to serve—welfare, quality of life, economic development, and so on—persist. But they are often conceptualized differently, promoted by different agencies, and articulated through novel technological and collective relations. This issue of Limn explores new formations of infrastructure, publicness, and expertise.The contributions examine how new forms of expertise conceive the public and make claims in its name, how publics are making novel claims on experts (and claims to expertise), and how earlier norms and techniques of infrastructure provisioning are being adapted in the process.

Contributors: Nikhil Anand, Soe Lin Aung, Jonathan Bach, Andrea Ballestero, Andrew Barry, Ashley Carse, Stephen J. Collier, Savannah Cox, and Kevin Grove, Kevin Donovan and Emma Park, Catherine Fennell, Andreas Folkers, Gökçe Günel, Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox, Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer, Andrew Lakoff, James Christopher Mizes, Canay Özden-Schilling, Ute Tellmann and Sven Opitz, Antina von Schnitzler,
and Alan Wiig

Rebuilding by Design article “Rebuilding by Design in Post-Sandy New York” with Savannah Cox and Kevin Grove is out in the new issue of Limn (#7) on public infrastructures. The whole issue, which I edited with Antina von Schnitzler and Chris Mizes, is worth checking out.



Limn 6 available in print

And it is a beauty. You can buy it here.



What Is Neoliberal Expertise?

Vincent Ostrom with his wife and Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom. Ostrom was President of the Public Choice Society (the third, after James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock) and the Founding Director of the Indiana University Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.

I finished a draft of a chapter–at the moment called Neoliberalism and Rule by Experts–for an upcoming volume edited by Wendy Larner and Vaughan Higgins called Assembling Neoliberalism. It focuses on Vincent Ostrom as an unexpected and confounding exponent of American neoliberalism who articulated a critique of expert rule and advocated for reinvigorated institutions of direct democracy.

I was particularly interested in Ostrom’s writing as an example of what Michel Foucault identified as a formation of neoliberal critique that took shape in the midst of what he called, in Birth of Biopolitics, a “crisis in governmentality.” Among the surprises I encountered in writing this piece was that Ostrom’s work anticipates Bruno Latour’s much later writing (particularly in books such as Politics of Nature).

Among my concerns in this chapter was argue that conventional critical understandings of expertise and government have significant blind spots and fail to take into account significant forms of programming truth and politics that have emerged in the last half century. The below is from the chapter’s conclusion:

[T]he point I want to emphasize is that Ostrom’s work points to a significant blind spot in much critical thinking about truth and politics as well as to a promising horizon of inquiry. Much recent social theory (or post-social theory) constitutes as its own field of adversity a set of assumptions about, and practical arrangements of, truth and politics that came under withering critique fifty years ago. And in at least a substantial number of cases it simply folds a critique of neoliberalism into a critique of that theory of truth and politics, as though nothing had changed in fifty years, as though the critique of that theory was not a constitutive moment for neoliberalism, and as though this critique had not been taken into account in the arts of government over the past half-century. At a minimum, this suggests that the critical social scientific discourse on truth and politics is badly out of date. It is not acceptable to continue to treat a particular configuration of truth and politics—which arose at a certain moment, bolstered by certain arguments, and actualized in certain institutions—to embody the unchanging terms of the modern settlement that repeats itself in place after place and case after case. Nor is it acceptable to proceed as though critique is the exclusive and privileged practice of social theorists, rather than a “line of development” in the arts of government that must itself be made the object of inquiry.


Limn 6 — The Total Archive

The 6th issue of Limn — The Total Archive — is available online. Andy Lakoff and I wrote a piece for it on The Bombing Encyclopedia of the World, an attempt by the US Air Force to create a database of all the bombing targets of all possible combatants in a future war, including the United States.

The list of contributors to this issue is awesome: Miriam Austin, Jenny Bangham, Reuben Binns, Balázs BodóGeoffry C. Bowker, Finn Brunton,Lawrence Cohen, Stephen Collier, Vadig De Croehling, Lukas Engelmann, Nicholas HA Evans, Fabienne Hess, Anna HughesBoris Jardine, Emily Jones, Judith Kaplan, Whitney Laemmli, Andrew Lakoff, Rebecca Lemov, Branwyn Poleykett, Mary Murrell, Ben Outhwaite, Julien Prévieux, and Jennifer Reardon.

Ebola’s Ecologies in Print

Limn 5 on “Ebola’s Ecologies” is now in print and can be purchased from CreateSpace.

This issue of Limn on “Ebola’s Ecologies” examines how the 2014 Ebola outbreak has put the norms, practices, and institutional logics of global health into question, and examines the new assemblages that are being forged in its wake. The contributions focus on various domains of thought and practice that have been implicated in the current outbreak, posing questions such as: What has been learned about the ambitions and the limits of humanitarian medical response? What insights are emerging concerning the contemporary organization of global health security? To what extent have new models of biotechnical innovation been established in the midst of the crisis?

Contributions by Guillaume Lachenal, Nicholas B. King, Joanna Radin, Ann H. Kelly, Peter Redfield, Theresa MacPhail, Alex Nading, Vinh-Kim Nguyen, Frédéric Le Marcis

Edited by Stephen J. Collier, Christopher M. Kelty, Andrew Lakoff

Vital Systems Security and “Governing Emergencies” in TCS

At long last the print version of “Vital Systems Security: Reflexive Biopolitics and the Government of Emergency“, my article in Theory Culture and Society with Andrew Lakoff, is out along with the rest of the special issue on “Governing Emergencies“, edited by Peter Adey, Ben Anderson, and Stephen Graham. It’s a terrific collection of articles.

Introduction: Governing Emergencies: Beyond Exceptionality–Peter Adey, Ben Anderson and Stephen Graham

Vital Systems Security: Reflexive Biopolitics and the Government of Emergency–Stephen J Collier and Andrew Lakoff

The Theology of Emergency: Welfare Reform, US Foreign Aid and the Faith-Based Initiative–Melinda Cooper

Cybersecurity, Bureaucratic Vitalism and European Emergency–Stephanie Simon and Marieke de Goede

Future Emergencies: Temporal Politics in Law and Economy–Sven Opitz and Ute Tellmann

Governing Inflation: Price and Atmospheres of Emergency–Derek McCormack

‘Crowded Places Are Everywhere We Go’: Crowds, Emergency, Politics–Claudia Aradau