Understanding infrastructure interfaces: common ground for interdisciplinary urban research?

by Jo Beall, Zegeye Cherenet, Liza Cirolia, Nuna Da Cruz, Susan Parnell, Philipp Rode

06 Aug 2019
Journal of the British Academy
33 (pp. 11-43)

Abstract: Urban development is a complex, multidimensional process that no single discipline can understand, explain or address adequately. In the case of infrastructure, different disciplines address specific issues—technical problems, social dynamics, political power—yet in reality these often intersect. This article documents the
experience of analysing the governance of infrastructure interfaces through a multidisciplinary case study of transport and sanitation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The analysis relied on combining established frameworks applied to social and tech- nical analysis, alongside that of the analysis of institutions and integrated planning. Scholars from development studies, planning and transport studies, architecture and engineering, anthropology, geography, political science and public administration were involved. Each provided conceptual and methodological approaches of value but with some proving more synergetic than others. Overall the process itself yielded considerable benefits for the joint research endeavour and confirmed the validity and additionality of interdisciplinarity in infrastructure research..

Keywords: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, governance, infrastructure, infrastructure interfaces, institutions, interdisciplinarity, planning, sanitation, transport, urban development.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 7, supplementary issue 2 (Cities and Infrastructure in the Global South).

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