This paper provides an ethnographic narrative on how the smart city discourse has translated into everyday processes of city administration and urban governance in India.
Harsh Mittal, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
(Mittal is now affiliated to Birla Institute of Technology and Science – Pilani, Hyderabad Campus, India.)
George Kandathil, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
Navdeep Mathur, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
Smart city (SC) experts in India often center-stage citizens as an alternative to a technology-led transformation. A substantial body of literature on smart cities sustains this resultant binary between techno-centrism and citizen-centrism. Mobilizing ANT sensibilities, we generate an ethnographic narrative on how the smart city discourse has translated into everyday processes of city administration and urban governance in India.
Our account unmutes more-and-other-than-human actants—event-stage, glossy publications, ceremonial awards, conference producers, and decision-makers—in the translation of SC discourse, with following effects: the uncertainties in the translation process are foregrounded which potentially destabilize center-staged actor identities; and the work of heterogeneous actants in articulating the citizen as the center of their efforts is revealed, thereby de-naturalizing the binarized reality.
Furthermore, when unmuted, more-and-other-than-humans spell out their ongoing collaborations and negotiations and generate a nuanced reading of the clashes and accommodations made in the process of translating SC discourse in everyday settings of city administrations. These effects lead us to emphasize the translation of SC discourse as an uncertain socio-material process proceeding through episodic clashes and tentative accommodations.
They also invite a conceptual expansion of translation as constitutive of the ontological politics of organizing, which insists on attending to ongoing collaborations and negotiations among more-and-other-than-humans that compose organizational realities. Thus, we address critical organization and management studies’ concerns regarding ANT’s alignment with its objectives by locating politics in the performance of, and interference into, the multiple realities that are being enacted through practices that assemble experts, decision-makers and non-humans.
Published in: Organization
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