Heterogeneous Infrastructure Configurations For Cities in Uganda Project  (HICCUP)

Funded by: Vetenskapsrådet (VR, The Swedish Research Council)

PI: Henrik Ernstson

Co-Is: Shuiab Lwasa, Makerere University, Jonathan Silver, Mary Lawhon, The Florida State University, David Nilsson, KTH


Cities in Africa are growing at unprecedented rates, and face an historically unique, multiscalar set of constraints including poverty and resource scarcity. This project focuses on urban waste and sanitation in two Ugandan cities.We investigate the politics of these infrastructure, including the contestation and negotiation that are part of the everyday use of residents.Residents use a diversity of sociotechnical options to obtain services, such as using flush toilets at school, paying to use a privately owned pit latrine, and making use of a distant open space. Building on African urbanist literature which urges us to start with cities in the South rather than established Northern theories and norms, we challenge the notion of the “infrastructure ideal” that suggests that the goal of service provision ought to be uniform, single-network services throughout the city. Instead, we focus our work on understanding the existing range of options and the processes undertaken to negotiate, contest, and improve what we call a “sociotechnical configuration”, a term we use to differentiate our approach from uniform and centralized and networked systems. We suggest that heterogeneous sociotechnical configurations already provide residents with more options when services are interrupted; rather than aspire to a system in which nothing ever goes wrong, we suggest that resilience is increased by this multiplicity.