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CFP: Flux Journal Special Issue on "Off-grid technologies in the history of urban services (18th-20th centuries): a reappraisal"

23 Jun 2021 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

We invite the submission of unpublished and original papers for a special themed issue of the journal Flux that examines the history of non-networked technologies, their role in the supply of urban services (e.g., energy, street lighting water supply, wastewater treatment, food supply…) and their relations to networked systems between the 18th and the 20th centuries.  Papers could explore the role of non-networked technologies and their relation to the emergence of networked technologies in cities in Europe and North America where networked technologies became dominant during that period.

Privileging a reflective historical approach, contributions will seek to reconstitute the course of diffusion or retraction of off-grid technologies, and their interactions with the development of large technical systems, which is often presented as a coherent and uniform, even hegemonic, process. They may emphasize the inertia (momentum) and the social, technological and/or territorial path dependencies at play; the forms of competition or complementarity and sometimes even symbiosis between networked and off-grid technologies the sociotechnical and urban imaginaries underpinning the observed dynamics; etc.

More generally, this themed issue will seek to add historical depth and a long-term perspective to the work of urban scholars (geographers, planners, architects, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists…) who have sought to explore, conceptualize and at times anticipate the variegated figures and shapes of the post-networked city. Those researchers have questioned the dominant model –  the modern integrated paradigm of the networked city – by confronting the ideal figure of the homogenous and homogenizing infrastructure to the diverse models of organization, management and servicing of urban spaces that accompany, often facilitate and sometimes indurate socio-spatially differentiated forms of urban development. 

What were the historical conditions, modalities and spaces of deployment of off-grid devices? Did these technologies generate or facilitate forms of competition between spaces within given urban areas? Did they help maintain pre-existing socio-spatial differentiations? Did organizations in charge of networked and off-grid technologies systematically compete or did they develop links – industrial, commercial, technological, financial, territorial or otherwise? And from a more future-oriented perspective: can Western and other long-industrialized societies emancipate from a historical heritage characterized by the sociotechnical imaginaryof the network, and if so, how? Can they at least deal with its material, social and political ubiquity?

Flux therefore welcomes submissions to an “alternative history” of urban services (the essential services of everyday life) through the study of the trajectory of off-grid technologies and devices. As with the recent historiography challenging the notion of linear energy transitions, contributions may help question the validity of periodizations based on successive dominant sociotechnical systems and underestimating the importance of “alternative” technologies for the societies concerned.

Deadline for submission of proposals: October 1, 2021

Proposals may be submitted in English or French.

Proposals should be sent to:

Professors Benjamin Bothereau, Olivier Coutard, and  Joel Tarr




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