Working with the end of water: Infrastructure, labour, and everyday futures of socio-environmental collapse in Mexico City

Alejandro De Coss-Corzo

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This paper analyses how everyday futures of socio-environmental collapse are constituted by the situated interactions of people and infrastructure in Mexico City. I posit that everyday futures emerge at the intersection of infrastructures as accretions of socio-environmental projects, processes, and promises, and the situated practices that specific groups and individuals deploy when engaging with them. Here, I develop this argument by analysing the labour practices through which repair and maintenance workers and engineers at SACMEX, Mexico City's public water utility, engage with infrastructures that are tensed on the edge of breakdown. To do so, I introduce the notion of ‘modes of everyday futurity’, which holds together the infrastructural conditions that enable the emergence of everyday futures, and the labour practices that enact them differentially. I show how Mexico City's hydraulic infrastructures are shaped by austerity, the demands to supply and dispose of water to deal with the historical problems of excess and scarcity, and by the specific geological and hydrological conditions of the city. I then look at how workers and engineers engage differently with these infrastructures and show how these interactions produce two distinct modes of everyday futurity: management and displacement. The former enacts a future where catastrophe has already happened but not yet fully unfolded and can only be tactically contained in uneven ways. The latter enacts one where catastrophe might be still displaced spatiotemporally through the construction of new hydraulic infrastructures which promise to reiterate urban modernity not as a dream of equal progress but one of unequal survival. Interrogating the making of everyday futures in Mexico City through these modes, I contribute to literature on futurity, temporality, labour, and infrastructure across the social sciences by theorising the role that infrastructures, and the forms of labour that sustain them, have in making plural, non-linear futures.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning E: Nature and Space
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2022


  • Socio-environmental change
  • infrastructures
  • labour
  • urban futures
  • water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Development
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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