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Hardcover | $39.00 Short | £32.95 | 224 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 22 b&w illus. | November 2015 | ISBN: 9780262029872
eBook | $27.00 Short | November 2015 | ISBN: 9780262330947
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Assembling Policy

Transantiago, Human Devices, and the Dream of a World-Class Society


Policymakers are regularly confronted by complaints that ordinary people are left out of the planning and managing of complex infrastructure projects. In this book, Sebastián Ureta argues that humans, both individually and collectively, are always at the heart of infrastructure policy; the issue is how they are brought into it. Ureta develops his argument through the case of Transantiago, a massive public transportation project in the city of Santiago, proposed in 2000, launched in 2007, and in 2012 called “the worst public policy ever implemented in our country” by a Chilean government spokesman.

Ureta examines Transantiago as a policy assemblage formed by an array of heterogeneous elements—including, crucially, “human devices,” or artifacts and practices through which humans were brought into infrastructure planning and implementation. Ureta traces the design and operation of Transantiago through four configurations: crisis, infrastructuration, disruption, and normalization. In the crisis phase, humans were enacted both as consumers and as participants in the transformation of Santiago into a “world-class” city, but during infrastructuration the “active citizen” went missing. The launch of Transantiago caused huge disruptions, in part because users challenged their role as mere consumers and instead enacted unexpected human devices. Resisting calls for radical reform, policymakers insisted on normalizing Transantiago, transforming it into a permanent failing system. Drawing on Chile’s experience, Ureta argues that if we understand policy as a series of heterogeneous assemblages, infrastructure policymaking would be more inclusive, reflexive, and responsible.

About the Author

Sebastián Ureta is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Santiago.


“If the provision of transport infrastructure cannot simply be left to the market, how can it be organized? And if the users of infrastructure neither behave as rational economic actors, as neoliberals imagine, nor as active citizens, as radical democrats hope, how do they behave? What do commuters and travelers do when things go dramatically wrong? In this cautionary tale, Sebastián Ureta dissolves the reliance on simple answers, while his brilliant analyses of ‘human devices’ and ‘strange things’ are critical contributions to future studies of infrastructure.”
Andrew Barry, Chair of Human Geography, University College London
“A fascinating story of Transantiago—a public transport system that materialized but never reached closure. Rich in empirical detail and theoretically innovative, this book is a welcome addition to STS scholarship on urban infrastructure.”
Anique Hommels, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University; author of Unbuilding Cities: Obduracy in Urban Sociotechnical Change