Project II Concept & Information

So, for my Project II, taking my cue from Gayatri Spivak’s definition of the subaltern, I had decided to look at the life of the urban lower classes in developing nations, particularly at those employed in services or businesses recycling or reusing both local and imported urban waste.

For my research I’d initially gone back to examples from back home, specifically from Karachi’s Saddar Market, of all the sorts of businesses and services that sprung up based on and around discarded technology: technicians with virtually no training who would turn old monitors into TV sets, artisans who would buff up worn cellphone shells using knife grinders, and rag pickers who would sift through scrap heaps of electronic waste to salvage reusable components that they would later sell in the ‘junk markets’. I also did a fair amount of research looking at Mumbai’s largest slum Dharavi as a case study and several design firms that specialized in designing affordable solutions for the world’s poor.

My project team was also looking at questions revolving around what the megacities of the future might look like and how they would tackle the issue of resources and waste more efficiently. Looking at various proposed solutions, I found one idea particularly engaging: that vertical tower housing, where entire residential, commercial and service communities would be housed in a single skyscraper, would be the way of the future. Over a collective brainstorming session we identified many possible problems that might rise from living in this way (where would all the trash go? What kind of agency would run the building?). I had also been reading about the cage homes for the poor in Hong Kong and the problems that the Mumbai local government was having in getting slum dwellers to move to more amenable apartment housing.

In the end, I’ve decided to work with the idea of a scenario where future governments deal with issues of energy production by giving affordable housing for the poor. Similar to the way cage homes work now, the poor would be moved into these cage complexes, freeing up the space occupied by slums so that cities could develop those areas into commercial sectors. The incentive for the poor? Free or near free housing. However, there is a twist: these free cage homes of the future employ energy harvesting technologies that will convert the body heat of their residents to electricity to charge reusable batteries, thereby converting housing into an energy industry.

Michel Foucalt uses the term ‘biopolitics’ to refer to the ways in which states will utilise technologies to subjugate  populations and recondition the ways in which we view our bodies. I would like to use this project to propose an alternative politics of energy to envision how states will use both coercion and other, more insidious ways to solve their complex energy problems.


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