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Title: Power politics and infrastructure participation : electricity contestation and urbanisation in a Chinese touristic town
Author: Liu, Jiechen
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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The aim of this thesis is to investigate the politico-economic concerns manifest in the form of problematic infrastructure and political action functioning though the everyday use of electrical infrastructure. It takes the precarious electricity infrastructure and the puzzle of its upgrading in a Chinese tourist site, Huangyao Ancient Town, as the research case. As the focal point of this thesis, infrastructure is understood as a socio- technical system. It is not merely about physical objects, but also a physical articulation of the uneven distribution of power and the struggles for it. Emphasising the heterogeneous nature of a socio-technical system, infrastructure is viewed as a terrain preserved in the meeting and contesting of various actors. It provides a view of the contingent aspects of infrastructure which facilitate the contestation and interaction of users with technical objects. Drawing on ethnographic data and archival records collected from fieldwork between 2015 and 2018, this thesis creates an infrastructural life-history as a research method for investigating how human and non-human actors inform and shape an infrastructural trajectory. This thesis first argues that the disruption of the electricity supply and the obstacles to its upgrading originate from the exclusion of the local inhabitants and local government during the process of Huangyao's urbanisation and tourism development. It then analyses the disputes over the electricity upgrade, leading to a situation of non-communication, which explain why the problems of electricity infrastructure are harder to solve in certain politico-economic contexts. As a result, additional infrastructural devices are adopted by individual users to boost electricity when unstable infrastructural conditions are normalized in everyday life. Such action through everyday electricity use produces an infrastructural space to change the current situation and forms a kind of participation through infrastructure. This thesis concludes that infrastructure can give a voice to a less visible and non-traditional infrastructural public: a terrain where politico-economic concerns are manifest and negotiated through everyday experience.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral