Qualification project

Political Construction of Critical Infrastructures Using the Empirical Example of Smart Cities

Research Department: Institutional Change and Regional Public Goods

Project Leader within IRS: Felicitas Klemp

Duration: 10/2019 - 10/2022

The dissertation project uses interpretive discourse analysis (Hajer 1995, 2005, 2008) to examine the political construction of critical infrastructures. National institutions and actors determine what is – and what is not – a ‘critical infrastructure’, and therefore the project analyses the definitions, sectors and related discourses at this level, using Sweden and Germany as case studies. Previous research has not made explicit links between constructivist perspectives and the notion of critical infrastructures. As a starting point, therefore, the study will identify the specific discourses that are present within critical infrastructure governance in Sweden and Germany, taking into account the discussion on "securitization".

The research focuses on the local level, particularly urban areas that see themselves as ‘smart cities’. The discourses on critical infrastructures and smart cities have developed largely independently of each other; this project will link them together. In particular, it will focus on how these discourses relate to concrete infrastructure, in urban implementation and in the governance of critical infrastructures in two exemplary cities – one in Sweden and one in Germany.

The dissertation project adopts two theoretical perspectives; first, the discourse theoretical approach of Maarten Hajer, which includes linguistic and non-linguistic elements. This emphasizes the importance of the contextualization of language and the views of coalitions within which it is used.

Second, it considers assemblage theory, which stresses the connections and relations between the material and the non-material. Connecting both theories conceptually in this way should provide new insights, since the most common points of criticism of one theory could be addressed by the other. The project will present both theoretical concepts methodically and research-analytically and use the empirical findings to highlight how they relate to each other.

The doctoral project is supervised by Prof. Dr. Nadine Marquardt at the Faculty of Geography of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.