Infrastructure supports, connects, separates, constrains, frees, transforms, communicates, and stores who we are. It reinforces and reshapes the stresses between dwelling and work, center and margin, high and low, and local and global that make a society. Yet it is normally mute. Until something breaks, decays, or, as in heritage infrastructure, needs to be remembered or recapitalized. Then it speaks. Especially at moments of ruin or risk, infrastructure speaks eloquently about those who otherwise leave little textual evidence behind but instead a dreadful or artful material history — tracks at a border wall, inscriptions on the walls of the Angel Island immigrant cells, or graffiti on a bridge. Infrastructure is the literature of those whose identities are made by being acted on by the medium of infrastructure, even as they make themselves by acting in, and against, infrastructure. People on the “right” side of the wall, the cell, the tracks, and so on are also subjects of infrastructure — for example, each time they get in a car and just drive, or boot their computer and just browse.

Critical Infrastructures Studies (CIstudies.org) is the site of an international community of scholars from many fields who are exploring how looking at the world through the concept of infrastructure—of things and systems made, built, shaped, crafted, interwoven, old, new, lived, loved, hated, sustained, or resisted—can make a difference….. [Read more]


Announcing the Critical Infrastructure Studies Initiative

Following a series of workshops, seminars, symposiums, and conference panels from 2015 to 2018 (see Events), the Critical Infrastructure Studies Initiative launched in April 2018 with a web site and an evolving collective consisting of an initial planning group and participants from various nations and fields. The initiative is organizing future events (e.g., a “Romanticism and Critical Infrastructure Studies” event), …


January 24, 2019

Public Humanities Infrastructure: A Post-Harvey Introduction to Critical Infrastructure Studies. Panel at Humanities Research Center, Rice University. (Event documentation and resources)

Buffalo Bayou, Houston (cropped versiion of photo by John Mulligan)

October 30, 2018

Radical Transparency Infrastructure Design Workshop. Seminar led by Clare Birchall at King’s Digital Lab, King’s College London. (Event documentation and resources)

Glass roof

June 22, 2018

Romanticism and Critical Infrastructure Studies. Seminar co-led by Jacques Khalip and Alan Liu at NASSR 2018 (conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism), Brown University. (Event documentation and resources)

Midtown Cottage, Brampton, Westmorland. From Brunskill, "Small House," as reproduced in Alan Liu, Wordsworth: The Sense of History
Midtown Cottage, Brampton, Westmorland. From R. W. Brunskill, “The Development of the Small House in the Eden Valley from 1650 to 1840”

Kurt Schwitters, Merzbarn Wall (1947-48) at the Hatton Gallery (Photograph: Nick May).
Kurt Schwitters, Merzbarn Wall (1947-48) at the Hatton Gallery (Photograph: Nick May).

March 29, 2018

Critical infrastructure Workshop. Hosted by King’s Digital Lab, King’s College London. (Event documentation and participants) (notes and resources from the event)

Critical Infrastructure Studies workshop, hosted by King's Digital Humanities Lab, March 29, 2018. Photo by Jonathan Gray.

January 6, 2018

Critical Infrastructure Studies Panel. Modern Language Association convention, New York City. Arranged by the MLA’s TC Digital Humanities forum. (Event documentation and participants)

July 8, 2016

Interrogating Infrastructure: A Symposium. Hosted by King’s Digital Lab and the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. (Event documentation and participants)

Interrogating Infrastructure Studies Symposium, King's College, July 8, 2016 Interrogating Infrastructure Studies Symposium, King's College, July 8, 2016

November 12, 2015

The Frontiers of DH: Humanities Systems Infrastructure. Hosted by the Digital Humanities Programme, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ. (Event documentation and participants) (videos: Paul Arthur, Alan Liu, James Smithies)

Humanities Systems Infrastructure workshop, U. Canterburgy, Nov. 12, 2015

CIstudies Projects

The Critical Infrastructure Studies Initiative is at work planning its initial projects, which may include:

  • Editions and anthologies of works.
  • Galleries or exhibitions of infrastructure (online or physical).
  • “Infrastructure Dreams”(hypothetical designs for things or systems whose plans can crystallize and bring into convergence thinking about the goals, premises, and failings of infrastructure from such perspectives as architecture, art, city planning, digital humanities, history, economics, engineering, environmentalism, ethnography, feminism, literature, media studies, political science, and science technology studies).
  • “Infrastructure Testimonials” (statements, memorials, protests, poems, photos, videos, and other witnessings gathered from all walks of life and from people around the world about specific infrastructure).