Journal article (OA) / Composting and Rainwater Harvesting as ‘Slow Infrastructure’ in Kerala

Barlow, Matt, and Georgina Drew. ‘Slow Infrastructures in Times of Crisis: Unworking Speed and Convenience’. Postcolonial Studies. Published ahead of print, 16 August 2020.

Abstract (edited): The (post)colonial logics of speed and convenience are manifest in many of today’s infrastructural projects, creating what we consider to be ‘fast infrastructures’. These infrastructures create ease for some and harm for others while exacerbating social and environmental crises around the world. Addressing these crises requires, we argue, a slowing down. Enter the role of ‘slow infrastructures’. In this paper, we highlight two forms of slow infrastructure that provide possibilities for rearranging our infrastructural orientations: composting and rainwater harvesting.

Drawing on fieldwork conducted throughout 2018 and 2019 in Kochi, Kerala, this research asserts that in order to do infrastructure differently, an unworking of convenience and speed is required. This unworking can be achieved through an attunement to multi-species and more-than-human relations, matched with a distributed ethic of maintenance and care. Our ethnographic examples, one from a hospital and another from a hotel, suggest that slow infrastructures can meaningfully offset the threat of disfunction and ‘urban failure’ that confronts cities increasingly marked by turbulence and uncertainty. While these examples draw from the tropics of urban South India, they offer lessons helpful to unworking the harm caused by fast infrastructures in other parts of the globe.


Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup


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