Infrastructure, TechnoPolitics and Apartheid’s Remains
Antina von Schnitzler is Assistant Professor in the Graduate Program of International Affairs at The New School. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. Her research has focused on citizenship and political subjectivities, the anthropology of infrastructure and technology, liberalism and neoliberalism, colonialism and postcoloniality, and South Africa.
As a GIDEST faculty fellow, Antina is completing the manuscript of her new book, Democracy’s Infrastructure: Neoliberalism, TechnoPolitics and Citizenship after Apartheid. Focused on a large, controversial infrastructure project to install prepaid water meters in all Soweto households, the book explores how administrative connections to the state — fiscal, infrastructural and judicial — become sites at which central questions of the anti-apartheid struggle continue to be mediated and negotiated in apartheid’s wake. In historically and ethnographically tracking life of a small technology — a prepaid meter — the book explores multiple entanglements of ethics, politics, and technics to think anew about politics in the postcolony and beyond.
In the paper for her GIDEST seminar, Antina tracks how infrastructures retain their political charge in the present, focusing in particular on the protests surrounding the mass deployment of prepaid water meters, devices designed to curb the nonpayment of accounts that began in the 1980s. Exploring democracy from the perspective of its infrastructures reframes the conventional story of South Africa’s “transition,” foregrounding the more oblique continuities and material remainders of the apartheid era. In looking beyond liberal imaginaries of rights, deliberation and free circulation, this work also proposes to think in more material terms about citizenship and the political in the postcolonial world.