Jonathan Soffer is professor of history at New York University Tandon School of Engineering and associated faculty in the NYU Department of History. He is the author of Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York.
Urban Infrastructures creates space for an encounter between historians, humanists, and social scientists who seek new methodological approaches to the history of urban infrastructure. It draws on recent work across history, anthropology, science and technology studies, geography, resilience/sustainability, and other disciplines to explore the social effects of infrastructure. The volume rejects narrow conceptions of infrastructure history as only the history of public works, and instead expands the definition to all business enterprises and public bodies that provide the goods and services essential for the day-to-day lives of most people. Essays examine traditional artifacts such as roads, highways, and waterworks, as well as nontraditional topics like regimes of heating and cooling, the processing and distribution of food, and even the metaphysics of electromagnetic infrastructure. Contributors reveal both the material grounding of urban social relations and the social life of material infrastructure. In the end, they show that infrastructure profoundly reshapes urban life even as residents fight to reshape infrastructure to their own ends.