Technologies of Government: Constituting Subjectivities, Spaces, and Infrastructures in Colonial and Contemporary Jakarta


This article seeks to extend recent debates on urban infrastructure access by exploring the interrelationship between subjectivity, urban space and infrastructure. Specifically, it presents a case study of the development and differentiation of the urban water supply in Jakarta, Indonesia. Drawing on concepts of governmentality and materiality, it argues that the construction of difference through processes of segregation and exclusion enacted via colonial and contemporary ‘technologies of government’ has spatial, discursive and material dimensions. In particular, it seeks to ‘rematerialize’ discussions of (post‐)colonial urban governmentality through insisting upon the importance of the contested and iterative interrelationship between discursive strategies, socio‐economic agendas, identity formation and infrastructure creation. In exploring these claims with respect to Jakarta, the article draws on data derived from archival, interview and participant observation research to present a genealogy of the city’s urban water supply system from its colonial origins to the present. We illustrate how discourses of modernity, hygiene and development are enrolled in the construction of urban subjects and the disposition of water supply infrastructure (and are also resisted), and document the relationship between the classification of urban residents, the differentiation of urban spaces and lack of access to services. The article closes with a discussion of the implications for analyses of the differentiation of urban services and urban space in cities in the global South.