PhD Seminar - "The standpipe is broken again!” Infrastructure renovation and failure: connecting people, time, place, and space in Nigeria

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About the event

Repeated malfunction and failure of water supply infrastructure poses a critical challenge to equitable and sustainable water access and the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals in most sub-Saharan African countries. A governing approach that ignores power and historical relations in water infrastructure management presents interesting conceptual, theoretical, and practical problems. With Nigeria as a case study, I seek to understand these problems by asking the question: what are the changing effects of power on water infrastructure failure?

Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu’s philosophical/sociological understandings of power relations inspired the theoretical and methodological foundations of this research and informed the collection and analysis of archival materials, interviews, reports, and observations. Through a focus on resistance, I explored infrastructure renovation and failure as a strategy of power and a product of relations of power that masks and perpetuates inequitable water access and distribution. Resistance as a focus of power analysis reveals the limits of domination and the suite of strategies that are available within a system of authority and domination. Specifically, I examine (i) how infrastructure failure and renovation is constructed in Nigeria’s water governance (ii) structures and concepts that perpetuate it; and (iii) how power and social theory can provide policy solutions to infrastructure failure problems.

The study presents pathways for securing sustainable water access in Nigeria in the future. These pathways include: an amendment of the constitutional provision that entrusts the federal, state, and local government with concurrent responsibility for water supply is expedient; a careful reconsideration of the continued use of the public standpipe as a water supply infrastructure strategy; and transformative historical research to expose problematic concepts and strategies of power that have endured over time.


About the speaker

Adegboyega Adeniran is a PhD student at the Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University. He tutors and works as a research officer at the School.

Gboyega worked as a Project Officer with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) – Newcastle, on the Tomago Wetland Rehabilitation Project. He completed a BSc (Hons) in Geography in 2004 and a PgDiploma in Social Work at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2009. He also obtained a Master of Engineering Science at the University of Newcastle, Australia in 2011. He is an alumnus of the Institute of development studies at the University of Sussex.

Gboyega has a keen interest in politics and has served in several leadership roles both in Nigeria and Australia. He is a former President of the ANU African Students Association.