Settler colonialism is an infrastructure (not an event): Rebecca Clements, Glen Searle, Tooran Alizadeh, ‘Epistemic silences in settler-colonial infrastructure governance literature’, Geographical Research, 2023


Abstract: The existing landscape of infrastructure governance discourses tends to focus on closing “governance gaps” commonly based on fractured and opaque neoliberal planning and delivery processes, privatisation and financialisation issues, and inequitable distribution and undemocratic decisionmaking processes. These gaps represent a deeply troubling erosion of infrastructure’s capacity to serve public interests or confront crises of climate injustice. However, the literature rarely confronts the uncomfortable politics of decolonising infrastructure or acknowledges ongoing permutations of settler-coloniality, implicating infrastructural framings of land, development, property, ownership, and decision-making power. This paper reflects on the current state of infrastructure governance literature about ongoing settler-colonial legacies in urban planning and development. Explaining some of the ways unceded Indigenous land has been exploited to facilitate settler state infrastructure development in major Australian cities, we then draw a line to the complicities of contemporary infrastructure governance. This foundation is considered using a systematic method to review infrastructure governance literature and reveal stark gaps in engagement with settler-coloniality and the politics of decolonisation. In light of these silences, we reflect on disciplinary responsibilities to redress research practices and suggest two reflexive approaches centred on to truth-telling and deep listening.

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