Cornell University

Life Off the Grid: Electricity, Power, and the State in Lebanon and Beyond

Monday, March 16, 2020 at 4:30pm to 5:20pm

Morrill Hall, 404
Cornell University Dept, 159 Central Avenue, Morrill Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4701, USA

In many places in the world where electricity from centralized grids is unreliable or inaccessible, small generators power everyday life. During the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990, generators became ubiquitous all over cities like Beirut and its suburbs as war disconnected neighborhoods – and infrastructures and services- from each other. Nearly three decades after the end of the civil war, electricity infrastructures in Lebanon remain a fragmented and overlapping set of arrangements. This paper traces the emergence and endurance of electricity generator subscription services in Lebanon, and the rise of municipal-scale attempts to manage these services. Rather than imagining how these systems exist in opposition to the state, as a kind of “shadow” network, what are the ways in which these patchwork systems – infrastructural failure, rather than success or even distribution – actually constitute a kind of state project? How might we regard these arrangements as a symptom of diminishing modernist imaginaries of large state projects rather than merely the continued “failures” of infrastructure brought about by conflict-era destruction?

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Anthropology, History, Government, Diversity, Sociology, Comparative Muslim Societies Program, Global Learning, International Programs, Global Cornell, Department of Development Sociology (DSOC), Sustainability

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Eric Tagliacozzo, Program Director

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Joanne Nucho

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Anthropology, Pomona College

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Wheelchair and audio accessible. Please contact us with any accessability needs as soon as possible

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Free and open to the public

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