Infrastructure as techno‐politics of differentiation: Socio‐political effects of mega‐infrastructures in Kenya

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Abstract: The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kenya, inaugurated in 2017, has been promoted by the Kenyan government as a promise of “development” and “prospering people.” This paper demonstrates how, contrary to these narratives, the SGR reiterates the pre‐existing relations of difference mediated by class, geography, and ethnicity. Focusing on material and semiotic forms of the SGR infrastructures, it specifically shows how the railway project functions as the techno‐politics of differentiation that governs by including “prospering publics” of urban middle classes into Kenya's modernist development vision, providing unstable hopes for “development” to more precarious peri‐urban and rural “anticipating populations,” but simultaneously constituting “excluded populations” in rural landscapes that are denied the possibility of being a part of the national modernist development vision. Highlighting this intimate relationship between infrastructure, governance, and biopolitics, the paper demonstrates that mega‐infrastructures – differentiating between the publics included in, and the populations excluded from, the state's development visions and practices, as well as unstable subjective dispositions in‐between – engender modalities of non‐belonging that fall outside of (inherently liberal) frames of “citizenship” or a “public” frequently employed in critical infrastructure scholarship.

REGULAR PAPER, REGULAR PAPERS, differentiation, infrastructure, Kenya, mega‐projects, techno‐politics
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Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
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UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenges Research Fund (ES/P011500/1)