Infrastructure in South African Cities

  • Alex WaferEmail author
Part of the GeoJournal Library book series (GEJL)


Infrastructure (literally meaning the underlying structure, from the Latin prefix infra- meaning below, and the English word structure meaning the arrangement of elements of a system) is traditionally thought about as the material substrate of the city, upon which everyday life relies but about which everyday life is unconcerned. Infrastructures are traditionally imagined as the wires, the pipes, the cables, the roads, the freeways: all of which connect the city together but which most of us take for granted. This kind of infrastructural imaginary, what the British geographers Graham and Marvin term networked infrastructures (Graham and Marvin in Splintering urbanism: networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition. Routledge, London, 2002), is the way that many civil servants and public officials like to think about infrastructure: i.e. as a collection of material objects which require technical and technocratic planning and coordination. It is the way that infrastructure is often thought about in the everyday public domain: infrastructures are the basic elements of modern urban life, and we only really think about them when they do not function: during load-shedding, or when the sewage pipes burst, or when the pot-holes do not get repaired. In these moments, a common response is to blame the government, whose job we might think it is to maintain the invisible substrate upon which the everyday life of the city depends.


Infrastructure Networks Urban life Planning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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