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Panagidis, A. (2022, August). Configurations of Fragmented Infrastructure: The case of Nicosia situated at the Global North-South interface [Conference abstract]. RC21 Conference: Ordinary Cities in Exceptional Times, Athens.

Posted on 24-08-2022

The processes of modernisation and urbanisation in Cyprus by previous colonial administrations aimed to replicate the “modern infrastructure ideal” (Graham & Marvin, 2001) and exert social control (Sioulas & Pyla, 2018). The newly established planning department undertook large infrastructural engineering projects related to water supply, electrification and road networks which largely determined the form of urbanisation. Subsequent Greek-Cypriot administrations adopting earlier planning mechanisms, have mainly followed technocratic formulae and the dominance of politics over civil society (Mavratsas, 1998; Trimikliniotis, 2001). Moreover, the processes of the island’s urbanisation are situated at the “interface” between the planning rationalities of the global North and the lived realities of the global South (Watson, 2009). Nicosia, the capital city, is characterised by dispersed, low-density urban development, incessant parcellation of land and the overwhelming dominance of private car mobility (Constantinides, 2018; Ioannou, 2016) resulting in great deficiencies and fragmentations of urban infrastructures. Such political and spatial incongruities are conveyed by pockets of entitlement contrasted by the informal practices and claims to urban space through which under-resourced citizens perpetually strive to adapt and improvise. However, the social implications of disjointed and dispersed infrastructures have been greatly overlooked. In addition, despite being a country that has remained a “post colony” striving to be modern as characterised by Argyrou (2010), Cyprus is rarely examined from the perspectives of postcolonial urban theory or urban informality when speaking about urban planning or housing.


This paper focuses on the relation between the physical and social attributes of Nicosia’s peripheral expansion apparent in people’s daily confrontations with fragmented infrastructures. Using suburban infrastructure as a frame of examination, the method of visual ethnography is used in order to trace the socio-material practices that point to heterogeneous arrangements. These include among others, side-of-the-road vendors, do-it-yourself advertisements, improvised agricultural practices and informal home extensions. Furthermore, physical evidence of the lived, grounded realities that resist dominant land use configurations is juxtaposed with spatial planning logics. The paper highlights the need for a critical, Southern perspective of investigation, revealing human-infrastructure interactions that contest normative planning positions and North-South binaries. Therefore, this study aims to determine whether an “ordinary” geography of human-infrastructure interactions may lead to envisioning development processes that re-politicise land and infrastructure to shed light on alternative planning pathways that refute inherited trajectories of modernisation.

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