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Conferences & lectures

Infrastructure, finance and publics in urban climate adaptation

Sociology & Anthropology Speakers Series

Date & time
Friday, March 12, 2021
1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Registration is closed


Stephen Collier


This event is free


Sociology and Anthropology


Chris Hurl



Join a webinar hosted by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

A central part of urban climate adaptation is the upgrading of infrastructures that are exposed to the effects of climate change and the construction or reconstruction of infrastructures that will be involved in managing the effects of climate change. In the U.S. context, the scale of investment and the scope of urban transformation implied by such construction or reconstruction has no precedent since the era of urban redevelopment, and the massive projects of urban freeway and public housing construction of the 1950s.

Although the private finance industry is playing an increasingly prominent role in this urban transformation — whether through bond finance, insurance, or risk rating — it is too reductive to claim that we are observing a process of “financialization” in which the interests of financial elites and the value established on financial markets dominates government action.

Drawing on a number of examples from U.S. cities, Stephen Collier will suggest two other salient frames for conceptualizing these projects. First, the old fashion concept of "public infrastructure" refers to a public that pre-exists a particular infrastructural intervention (and whose putative "interests" are served by infrastructure). Second, the "infrastructural public," a concept drawn from pragmatist and new materialist thinking that refers to collectives that take shape around — and formulate political claims in relation to — the planning and construction of infrastructures.

About the speaker

Stephen Collier is a professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California Berkeley. He studies city planning and urban governance from the broad perspective of the critical social science of expertise and expert systems. His work addresses a range of topics, including climate resilience and adaptation, emergency preparedness and emergency management, neoliberal reform, infrastructure and urban social welfare. His ongoing work on resilience builds on longer-term research on the genealogy of emergency government in the United States, which resulted in a co-authored book, The Government of Emergency: System Vulnerability, Expertise, and the Politics of Security (Princeton University Press).

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