Engineering Cities: Mediating Materialities, Infrastructural Imaginaries and Shifting Regimes of Urban Expertise


This symposium opens up new critical insights and analytical perspectives into the relationships between power, politics, materiality and urban engineering. In so doing it demonstrates the central role of engineers in the production and negotiation of everyday life in the city. In contrast to the technocratic exercise engineering often professes to be, the contributors to this symposium argue that the assembling and choreography of cities through the myriad techniques, routines, standards and visions of engineers is inextricably bound up with broader socio-cultural, material and political urban dynamics and processes. This necessitates investigating the multiple and competing social imaginations, forms of knowledge and regimes of expertise associated with urban engineering. The symposium’s five articles, straddling disciplinary backgrounds in geography, anthropology, engineering and history, focus analytical and empirical attention on the figure of the engineer and on the work of engineering in the cities of Paris, Mumbai, Singapore and London. Engineering, we suggest, is a diagnostic for probing the shifting forms of mediation that animate and inhabit contemporary dynamics of urban change. The symposium thus opens up a new avenue for cross-disciplinary and transregional research for urban studies while also suggesting innovative ways of conceptualizing urban transformation and contestation.