Coloniality of Infrastructure

Kenny Cupers
e-flux, 2021

Coloniality of Infrastructure is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture, Critical Urbanisms at the University of Basel, and the African Centre for Cities of the University of Cape Town, featuring contributions by Emilio Distretti, Megan Eardley, Samia Henni, Achille Mbembe, Sarah Nuttall, Irene Peano, Zandi Sherman, Huda Tayob, and Sophie Toupin.

Infrastructure is inherited from the past—not only through material artefacts and physical configurations but also through spatial imaginaries, affective relations, and shared memories. Such inheritances may be immaterial, as in the way a colonial railway conveys romantic memories of travel for some or resilience against the traumas of subjugation for others. They may be projective, fueling individual aspirations of prosperity, mobility, or belonging. Or they may signify “roads not taken,” propelling dreams of another, radically different future. Inheritance can also be forged from material artefacts. As new, monumental infrastructures of postcolonial nation-building have risen, colonial-era infrastructures have crumbled.

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Atlantropa, by Herman Sörgel, 1932.
© Exhibition poster, TU Munich Museum.
World map by Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi. .
© Paneuropa (Vienna: Pan-Europa-Verlag, 1923)
Map of the Trans-African Highway project from the late 1970s. Source: Rolf Hofmeier, “Die Transafrikastraßen: Stand der Planung und Realisierung,”
© Africa Spectrum 14, no. 1 (1979): 31–51, 35.