Shiben Banerji, 2019-2020 Visiting Scholar, UIC Department of Art History
Assistant Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Lecture: "Cosmic Imagining: Toward a Genealogy of Public Infrastructures of Uncertainty"
Abstract: Encouraged by Bonnie Honig's notion of the reparative work of public things in democracies, this paper argues that infrastructure is inextricable from desire. Once seen from this perspective, the emergence of public infrastructures of uncertainty gain new salience for mapping latent desires for democracy in profoundly undemocratic situations. Here, public infrastructures of uncertainty refers to a miscellany of conduits and sites that heighten rather than reduce uncertainty. Fractional investing--where investors purchase partial shares in publicly traded companies--and the sprawling digital networks that makes it possible is one example of a public site for heightening uncertainty. Only in a few cases are such things owned by the public sector, though they are all subsidized by governments and subject to public regulation of one sort or another. Yet, their public-ness stems less from genres of control than from their potential to bind disparate subjects, species, and things into an ordered cosmos. Moving beyond an approach to infrastructure that emphasizes its capacity to provide for needs and calibrate expectations of risk, this paper focuses on the imbrication of desire and unimagined futures. Its analytical claims are buttressed by historical interpretations of urban design projects from interwar Belgium and Australia, as well as close readings of essays in art and political criticism by Octavio Paz.
Sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities and Department of Art History