Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies

Infrastructure plays a decisive role in urban development and in the life of cities. This course will envisage this role from a historical perspective. History proves especially useful when dealing with the political dimension of urban infrastructure. From fortifications to smart technologies, infrastructure is inseparable from political intentions and consequences. This political dimension will constitute one of the threads of this lecture course. Other themes of the course will include the relation between cities and their hinterland, the progressive dematerialization of infrastructure, from walls or bridges to the invisible electronic networks that organize contemporary urban life, the rise of environmental concerns and their impact on infrastructural thoughts and practices, the key part played by infrastructure in social and racial inequality, the need to envisage infrastructure differently when dealing with informal settlements. Also of interest will be the changing relationships between cities, nature and infrastructure. More than ever, urban nature appears today as inseparable from infrastructure.

'Cities, Infrastructure, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies' suggests an alternative way to read cities and their evolution. Historical analysis will systematically serve as a basis to envisage contemporary issues such as the challenges of rising inequality and climate change. Since it aims to chart new territory, class discussions will be regularly organized after the presentations.

Readings related to the course content or expanding its perspectives are provided for each of the lectures and will be available on Canvas in pdf format. In addition to required readings, suggested readings are also provided for some of the weeks. Course evaluation will be based on class attendance, the conception of a couple of prompts related to topics of interest to students to be run on a generative AI program such as ChatGPT (more detailed explanation will be given at the beginning of the semester), as well as a final paper.