STANDBY: INFRASTRUCTURES BETWEEN MOBILITY AND STILLNESS


Call for contributions to our session at the AAG Annual Meeting 2017, April 5 – 9, Boston.
Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to laura.kemmer[at]fu-berlin.de or annika.kuehn[at]wiso.uni-hamburg.de.
The deadline for submission is October 19, 2016.

Laura Kemmer, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin and University of Hamburg, Germany

Annika Kühn, University of Hamburg, Germany 

Discussants: Tim Edensor, Manchester Metropolitan University and David Bissell, Australian National University

Keywords: Standby, Stillness, Non-/human Waiting, Infrastructure, Mobility

Standby Infrastructures stand in sharp contrast to infrastructures in-use. While the latter are supposed to produce value and to set into motion, infrastructural waiting is often considered to be merely a temporary state. Although standby appears to be a common mode of infrastructures – be it during seasonal pauses, for economic reasons or in the context of planning strategies – it is rarely examined systematically. Academic engagements with stilled infrastructures are mostly interested in the political and social consequences of their breakdown. Therefore, it remains an open question what we would find if we considered the time between stoppage and resumption not as empty, meaningless, or intentional part of the international flow of capital, but as infrastructural mode per se. With this panel, we are pushing forward an engagement with the specific spatio-temporal qualities of standby.

Similar to the standby-mode of a technical device, an airplane passenger, or a military unit, even the most stilled elements of an infrastructure, such as terminals, tracks, cables, switched off vehicles or companies can potentially be activated. Taking one step back, we wonder what exactly happens during the moment before activation, outside the logic of anticipated or regulated movement. How do infrastructures wait? Which forces and tensions, commonly described as underlying white noise, constant disquietude or restlessness, circulate during the ‘active inactivity’ of infrastructures?

Waiting has so far been described as a primarily human activity (cf. Bissell 2007; Schweizer 2008; Gasparini 1995), as a practice and experience of hopeful, concerned or bored anticipation. Inspired by these engagements we want to direct our attention towards a more-than-human, an infrastructural mode of waiting. A form of waiting that does not equal unmoved materiality, or non-/human boredom with a state of being unaffected (Anderson 2004). Rather, we argue that such qualities of stillness imply strong and intense modalities of agency that entangle spatio-temporal experiences of immobility and restlessness – comparable to Bergson’s description of “durée” – through spatially stilled but pulsating bodies.

By concentrating on the active character of infrastructural standby, it’s pulsating mode, stillness becomes a quality of its own. At the same time, we propose to conceptualize it as a process that is deeply interconnected with other infrastructural modes and temporalities, like operation, acceleration, slowdown, abandonment, or breakdown. Against the dualism of movement versus stillness, or flow versus resistance, we are looking for contributions that scrutinize the passages between different modes of infrastructural (in-)activity: Their overlaps, connections and transformations. We are especially interested in contributions that discuss one or several of the following aspects: 

1. Modes of Standby: We look for contributions that scrutinize modes of standby, or other qualities of “active inactivity” like i.e. stillness, waiting, slowdown, boredom, silence, cooling down, decay, restlessness, reuse et cetera. 
2. Temporality: Which rhythms, movement patterns and constellations are provoked by modes of standby?
3. Production of space: Which are the spaces of standby? How can we describe their connection to local, as well as other global, infrastructural, ecological or social environments? Can we assess new kinds of architectures and atmospheres, such as terminals, waiting rooms, digital display boards, online check-in systems?
4. Performativity of Standby: In addition to what standby is, we are interested in what standby does? Which are the involved actors and how is agency distributed amongst them? How to asses modes of ‘unwilling’, of non-strategic stillness and which activities might emerge thereof?

Participants will be notified of acceptance by October 24 and will have to register directly for the AAG 2017 Annual Meeting by October 27.
It is our aim to curate a special issue from the panel contributions. We will provide more information after having set up the panel.


Cited works:
Anderson, Ben (2004): „Time-stilled space-slowed: how boredom matters“Geoforum 35, 739-754.
Bissell, David (2007): “Animating Suspension: Waiting for Mobilities”, Mobilities, 2 (2), 277-298.
Gasparini, Giovanni (1995): “On Waiting”, Time & Society, 4 (1), 29-45.
Schweizer, Harold (2008): On Waiting, New York: Routledge.
Advertisements