Infrastructuring Yachay: contexts in action, temporalities and expectations in Ecuador's 'Yachay the city of knowledge'
Gómez Urrego, José David
This thesis explores the temporalities involved in the infrastructuring of “Yachay, the city of knowledge” - the most ambitious and controversial public infrastructural project in Ecuador’s history. Yachay, which means wisdom-knowledge in Kichwa, embodies a variety of economic, cultural and political narratives while assembling a variety of heterogeneous actors with particular historical trajectories, motivations and expectations. Yachay is being constructed since 2012 in the valley of Urcuquí, located in the province of Imbabura in the north-central Andean region of Ecuador; it aims to combine a planned sustainable city, a science park with a business orientation, and a research-oriented public university already in operation (YachayTech), in an intervention area of 4500 hectares. Using theoretical tools from the sociology of expectations, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and social studies of time I analyse how a diversity of actors have mobilized expectations during the inception, implementation and reconfiguration of the project. Furthermore, I examine how expectations interact with the infrastructural dynamics of breakdown, and repair/disrepair –materially and symbolically –in the process of shaping Yachay across the project´s life and within a shifting political landscape. To achieve this, I use the Biography of Artefacts and Practices (BOAP) approach to study the dynamics of Yachay throughout time and in practice, in parallel with the diverse range of social relations and settings wherein the project evolves. I aim to follow the life of Yachay in practice along with the contingent elements shaping and being shaped by Yachay. The thesis draws on fieldwork conducted in Yachay for 14 months between 2016 and 2018. Contemporary ethnography is augmented by historical sensibility and methods to analyse documents in archives. The research specifically follows Yachay through four different periods. First, in the course of its intragovernmental scaling-up process from a technical university to a city of knowledge (2006-2011). Second, during the material implementation of some of its fundamental physical infrastructure (2011- 2012). Third, throughout key changes in the operation of its two main institutions (Yachay Empresa Pública and YachayTech) (2012-2017). Fourth, through the radical reinterpretation of Yachay that followed the change of government from Rafael Correa to Lenin Moreno, embodied in the very different context that the latter mobilized (2017-2018). This thesis contributes to the ongoing discussion around futurity and temporalities in STS through an empirical case from a region of the world largely overlooked in STS. It seeks to do it by extending the common use of expectations in two related ways. One, by framing expectations as interfaces between pasts and futures rather than being mostly future oriented, and thus drawing attention into past trajectories in the analysis of futures and infrastructuring processes; and two, by exploring and problematizing the notion of contexts as forms of stabilisation of particular expectations and exploring their intersections with the dynamics of infrastructures.