- Empire and colonial cities
- Of Planting And Planning: The Making Of British Colonial Cities
- Of Planting and Planning: The making of British colonial cities - Robert K Home - Google книги
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The story of how everyday technologies influenced colonial life and rule, however, especially regarding the twentieth century, has only been explored very recently e. Beyond their instrumental character for colonial ventures, technology and science have also been investigated as means of self-affirmation for colonial subjects e. His key argument is that those involved in the colonies came to view scientific thought and technological achievements not only as vital attributes of European—and hence their own—superiority, but also as the most meaningful measures by which non-Western societies might be evaluated, classified and ranked.
For example, the Indian railways and especially the bridges that spanned the great rivers of India were heralded and praised as torchbearers upon the path of progress, signifying the superiority of European civilization and bringing enlightenment to the native heathen population. Following the general inclination of environmental history for narratives of deprivation and loss, research has particularly highlighted the devastating albeit mostly unintentional ecological effects that European hunger for foreign natural resources had on the environment of their colonies.
That narrative is caught up in the classical occident-oriented, modernist view on technology, in which European and North American actors are the driving forces in the invention and spread of artifacts and systems. Consequently, it largely interprets global technological ex change as dissemination from the top, implicating linear power relations with the colonized as passive recipients.
Current historical studies, as we will see, tell more complex stories and even counter-narratives: they provide instances of infrastructures becoming places of resistance against colonial rule and of unintended social, political and environmental consequences of infrastructure transfers, limiting or undermining the colonizers original intentions. They reject simple diffusionist or instrumentalist approaches, instead highlighting tensions of and within empires, complex global connections and interactive transfer processes such as information and commodity flows ; mechanisms of appropriation and resistance connected to technological innovations; and ambivalences of human-environmental relations in colonial and postcolonial settings with regards to early colonial nature protection efforts, for example.
Thirdly, it depicts the manifold ways in which infrastructures reflected and re produced colonial spaces and identities, especially in urban environments. Lastly, it outlines perspectives for entangled histories of technology and the environment by investigating resources and environmental conditions necessary for the establishment of technical infrastructures in the colonies, their ecological impacts, and effects on the experience of nature. In the outlook, we will then delineate four directions of research that we regard as particularly promising for future studies of infrastructures, colonialism, and the environment.
Until the late s, both imperial historians and historians of technology favored diffusionist narratives, depicting colonial rule and technological change as straightforward top-down processes, with either beneficial or devastating consequences. Moreover, the available resources for transferring infrastructures from the metropole to the periphery varied greatly among and within different empires and changed over time. Most colonial powers, after an initial predatory phase of conquest and plunder, adopted more constructive ways of exploitation, so infrastructures became inextricably linked to their increasing interest in managing overseas resources.
In contrast, as Agnes Kneitz suggests in her case study of water infrastructures in colonial Qingdao in this issue, latecomers such as Germany or the United States were more inclined to invest heavily into their colonial possessions, not least to showcase their technological potency. Among the largest infrastructure investments were railways, dams and irrigation channels, which, along with new agricultural research facilities, were built to boost cash-crop production for export and balance budgets of colonial states.
Empire and colonial cities
Many projects, however, remained rhetorical, due to lack of financial resources and political will to invest metropolitan money in the colonies. With world market prices falling in the wake of the world economic crisis, the focus on cash crop monoculture turned into an economic deadlock. The key nodal points of imperial transportation and communication networks, railways and ports now frequently became sites for strikes and demonstrations. In South and East Asia, for example, the rise of Japanese imperialism began to undermine the asserted Western technological and civilizational superiority Bayly Western colonial powers responded to the growing pressure from both inside and outside their empires by altering their development policies.
Hoag An analysis of these actors as well as their agenda, strategies, resources, and social connections is instrumental for understanding how colonial technological infrastructures were shaped and transformed. Relatedly, the networks themselves deserve particular attention in regard to their social formation and structure. Gary Magee and Andrew Thompson emphasized that access to networks was exclusive, for example tied to collective identities, such as Britishness.
Of Planting And Planning: The Making Of British Colonial Cities
Another one is the assumption of largely undisturbed and uncontested flows of technology and related ideas, practices, capital, and knowledge or sometimes the lack thereof. This notion becomes increasingly questionable, as recent scholarship has provided fresh insights into the complex organizational process of constructing and managing technological infrastructures spanning great geographical distances, multiple institutional levels and cultural borders within the colonial world.
Infrastructures, as Maurits Ertsen has commented, cannot be understood as entities that were rolled out easily and evenly over colonized landscapes and societies. In his contribution on the electrification of British-ruled Palestine in the s in this issue, Shamir points out that control over political and legal means for the transfer of infrastructures did not necessarily translate into control over the actual technological, industrial, and ecological aspects of the process.
Following the spatial turn of the late s, imperial historians have set out to understand the historical processes associated with the production of colonies as distinct, bounded spaces. Not surprisingly, identity politics has become the lens through which most of the few existing studies look at infrastructures in the former colonies. Most of these works focus on urban areas as the most important sites of colonial cohabitation. As Moses Chikowero has shown in his study of Bulawayo in colonial Rhodesia, the municipality devised specific programs to promote the electrification of European households while at the same time discouraging the African population from using it.
In the planning and development of these infrastructures, the discourses of cultural and racial difference blended with ideas associated with sanitary reform in European cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Gandy : Even after independence, such infrastructures of inequality were often carried forward, albeit on class instead of racial grounds, as Nilsson elucidates also in this volume. In addition, not all urban infrastructures were as socially exclusive as electricity or modern water and sanitation networks.
What can one make of these examples that seem to contradict the taken-for-granted world of networked urban infrastructure as many of us know it today? Connecting urban historical geography with theories of how large technical systems emerge and transform over time can help to shed light on the historical roots of splintered urban networks and spaces in the Global South, as well as provide new insights into current processes of Western urbanization. Research on infrastructures often draws on Thomas P.
The LTS approach emphasizes the juxtaposition of technologies and society, regarding technological systems as both socially constructed and society shaping. Hughes identified four typical phases of system evolution: invention and development, technology transfer, growth, and consolidation. Patterns might vary, however, depending not only on national styles, but also the dynamics of the system in question. Despite its analytical appeal, the LTS approach has been subject to multiple criticisms over time e.
These include methodological problems as it proved quite difficult to operationalize because of the many system components involved ; general reservations, for example regarding its teleological tendencies or the little conceptualized juxtaposition of LTS and society; and specific objections, in particular the overemphasized importance of system builders as the major agents of change.
Such debates open up fruitful areas of discussion not only on possible similarities and differences among world regions, but also on processes and agents of transnational technological transfer and change. Are there features particular to the evolution of infrastructures in the Global South during colonialism as well as after independence? Recent studies indicate that patterns of system development might vary considerably. Electrification in countries outside the industrial core often began with later developmental phases, omitting, for example, the early stages of invention and development Showers , or needing to find alternative directions of growth, as load factors did not encourage an economies of scale approach Shamir : 4.
Sometimes service providers deliberately disregarded potential customers on racial grounds Chikowero Empirical studies on the emergence and development of post colonial infrastructures therefore not only promise fresh insights into the evolution of large technical systems in different socio-cultural, political and environmental contexts, but also into possible conceptual blind spots of the LTS approach itself.
In doing so, Nilsson inquires how large technical systems might be adjusted to fit the informal economies of the Global South with their different, and additional, sets of institutions and governance structures. This is another history of technology approach of great promise that has not been explored to its full extent in colonial contexts yet Edgerton Looking at technical infrastructures as both actors and actor networks, the dual character of infrastructures as mediators and intermediaries becomes visible.
As findings from the new institutional economics and social sciences show, formal and informal institutions such as rules and regulations, but also values, preferences, and beliefs are vital prerequisites and instruments of both governmental policies and governance processes e. They are also essential tools for the transmission of technologies and implementation of colonial rule into daily life practices.
Of Planting and Planning: The making of British colonial cities - Robert K Home - Google книги
In both disciplines, urban or rural technical infrastructures were major areas of research from early on e. McNeill ; Radkau Another focus was and is on the emergence and specific quality of colonial nature conservation Grove ; Kirchberger ; Ross ; Gissibl While technical infrastructures often feature in these stories, they were rarely at the center of analysis.
In accordance with their importance for the colonial project, irrigation and transport as well as sanitary issues attracted the most attention so far e. Headrick not only highlights how environmental factors benefited and advanced colonialism, but also how they worked as natural barriers and obstacles to be overcome, determining the nature and pace of colonial enterprises.
In turn, the limits and limitations of colonial environmental knowledge have also come to the fore. As many European colonists discovered, what might seem appropriate in Great Britain or continental Europe could be disastrous on the other side of the world, as the transfer of Western infrastructures and technologies resulted in unforeseen consequences. Irrigation also promoted waterborne diseases, such as malaria, hookworm, or bilharzias. Sometimes, such environmental-technical feedback loops inadvertently hampered other infrastructural schemes and gave rise to conflicting interests, such as rural irrigation, urban water supply, and hydro-electric works competing over scarce water resources and undermining each other in the process.
As William Beinart and Lotte Hughes have pointed out, such commodity chains and resource frontiers gave the British Empire both its character and unity : 2. Targeting eco-cultural commodity frontiers to explore human-environmental interactions, exchanges and relationships, from colonial rice and tea plantations to hunting practices, animal husbandry, or production of climate knowledge, the authors in this book specifically focus on connections beyond the political-administrative borders of nation-states and territories, in particular informal actor networks and knowledge transfer.
While breaking new ground with regard to eco-cultural entanglements of and within empires, the volume primarily focusses on rural areas and does not discuss urban issues in detail with the exception of Kheraj Research has repeatedly highlighted the ambivalences of urban infrastructures, their benefits, drawbacks and limits. Scrutinizing the urban metabolism of Tsingtao, Kneitz depicts the complexities and difficulties involved in engineering colonial environments while utilizing technologies and concepts of nature originally developed for European climates, terrains, and social conditions, in this case, German-style scientific forestry and water management practices.
All papers also demonstrate the limits of colonial infrastructures—whether urban or rural. Facing insufficient resources such as financial restrictions or lacking materials , local opposition, contradictory expert opinions, administrative delays, problems of upkeep, maintenance, and scale such as population growth , as well as unexpected realities on site or unintended environmental consequences, even the most well-meant projects often failed to reach their goals, were reduced in size and scope, or sometimes failed to materialize at all see Harrison ; Sivaramakrishnan ; Ramanna ; Beattie for example.
Research in the last few years has made significant progress in offering more nuanced accounts of post colonial infrastructures and in opening up new perspectives for an entangled history of technology, colonialism, and the environment.
In the process, formerly neglected agents of transnational technological transfer and change, for example business owners or engineering consultants, but also formal and informal institutions have received more attention—even though most studies still focus on Western actors within these networks. Finally, research generally has become more aware of the importance of the material dimension of colonial rule: not only the artifacts, resources, technologies and infrastructures involved, but also the environmental prerequisites, challenges, and effects of colonialism.
Not least because they investigate the manifold ways in which infrastructures reflected and re produced colonial spaces and identities, often resulting in the exclusion of local actors in design and use of infrastructure technologies, but also because they highlight divergent dynamics of technological change and appropriation processes quite different from Western experiences.
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Of course, much work remains to be done as many technologies, periods and regions have either not been touched upon yet in historical investigation or discussed separately without drawing out possible connections and shared characteristics. Even highly visible and prestigious technological infrastructures such as irrigation, railways, or electricity need to be further unpacked in order to reach an analytical depth matching the study of infrastructures in the industrialized world. In the next paragraphs, we will outline four avenues of research that we deem particularly promising for future entangled histories of infrastructures, colonialism, and the environment.
While some of these aspects have already been touched upon, either in our introductory essay or in the papers of this volume, others might offer impulses to move the boundary even further. What is modern and what is traditional? What is natural and what is social? What is Western and what is non-Western?
What is formal and what is informal? What is sustainable and what is wasteful? To answer these questions, historical research needs to become grounded in the daily realities of urban and rural life—in Africa and Asia as well as in Europe and North America. Second, investigating the infrastructural development in the Global South during colonialism and after independence, the Western narrative in which new infrastructure technologies are invented, negotiated, disseminated, and, after some time, disappear from the scene to become the invisible and silent foundations of everyday life soon reaches its limits.
As we can see from the multitude of case studies discussed in this volume, most infrastructures in the Global South do not fit in this narrative, neither regarding the process nor its outcome. Instead of an evolutionary growth of technical systems towards universal access and provision, as expected when following the LTS approach, they reveal the racially and socially exclusive, contested, erratic and largely incomplete processes of planning, financing and building Western-style infrastructure in the former colonies. There are three aspects in particular that we should keep in mind here: First of all, the appropriation of technologies has never been equivalent with simply copying Western patterns of consumption.
And thirdly, formal infrastructures are only one of many ways for providing—and accessing—basic services in the Global South, and not necessarily the most appropriate ones.