Rafico RuizOct 13, 2022
Infrastructural Mediation on the Settler Colonial Resource Frontier
Duke University Press 2021
From the late nineteenth through most of the twentieth century, the evangelical Protestant Grenfell Mission in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, created a network of hospitals, schools, orphanages, stores, and industries with the goal of bringing health and organized society to settler fisherfolk and Indigenous populations. This infrastructure also served to support resource extraction of fisheries off Labrador's coast.
In Slow Disturbance: Infrastructural Mediation on the Settler Colonial Resource Frontier (Duke UP, 2021), Rafico Ruiz engages with the Grenfell Mission to theorize how settler colonialism establishes itself through what he calls infrastructural mediation—the ways in which colonial lifeworlds, subjectivities, and affects come into being through the creation and maintenance of infrastructures. Drawing on archival documents, maps, interviews with municipal officials, teachers, and residents, as well as his field photography, Ruiz shows how the mission's infrastructural mediation—from its attempts to restructure the local economy to the aerial surveying and mapping of the coastline—responded to the colony's environmental conditions in ways that expanded the bounds of the settler frontier. By tracing the mission's history and the mechanisms that enabled its functioning, Ruiz complicates understandings of mediation and infrastructure while expanding current debates surrounding settler colonialism and extractive capitalism.
Rafico Ruiz is the Associate Director of Research at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. He holds an ad personam PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture and Communication Studies from McGill University. He is the author of Slow Disturbance: Infrastructural Mediation on the Settler Colonial Resource Frontier and the co-editor with Melody Jue of Saturation: An Elemental Politics.
Padmapriya Vidhya-Govindarajan is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU Steinhardt. Her research interests lie at the intersection of environmental justice, digital and film cultures, and community media-use practices.