PhD Course: “Infrastructures of Governance”


Governance is increasingly shaped by highly complex infrastructures. Defined in contrast to government, governance can be considered a system of rule that uses mobilizing techniques and recruit agents other than those of the state. Governance is characterized by the development of persuasive incentive structures, monitoring tools, and a growth in data production and international policy networks. Contemporary infrastructures of governance include, but is not limited to, education, migration, borders and territory. These infrastructures materialize new monitoring tools, increased data and new big data technologies with lists, comparisons, predictive calculations, and international rankings (Brøgger, 2016).

While we tend to take infrastructure for granted in everyday life, the premise of this PhD course is that its exploration will allow us new insights into the production of governance and its effects on organization and lived lives (Ratner and Gad, forth.). The term of infrastructure encompasses humans, processes, procedures, tools, and technologies used to produce, use, transport, store and even destruct information (Pironti, 2006). It is important not to reduce these developments to the study of a simple dataset or policy text. Infrastructure allows us to track and investigate the ways in which the productions of policy and data are entangled in the make‐ up of classifications and standards (Bowker & Star, 2000). As Brian Larkin argues (2013), infrastructures are things in themselves and bring things into relationship, hence changing and constituting new objects of governance. Infrastructures are both local and global, a response to situated legal, technical and institutional demands, yet they extend and adapt to new sites as they branch out. They entail a politics and poetics, they produce technical objects and desires of movement and progress and thus they contribute the possibility of studying an expanded perception of (non)‐human agency in modern governance. Infrastructures, however, do not simply organize social complexity but contain their own systemic indeterminacy and inequality, redistributing access to resources and effecting new population divides (Reeves, 2017).

This PhD course takes up different approaches to the study of infrastructure ranging from political science to Science and Technology Studies and anthropology. It also addresses methodological challenges particular to infrastructures, given their temporal and spatial extensions detaching them from isolated local sites.

Students submit a paper (5 pages) prior to participating in the course, with the aim of feedback and common discussion.

This PhD course if offered by the DPU re-search unit in Education Policy, Governance and Administration.

The course is offered in continuation of the conference Politics and Ethnography in an Age of Uncertainty. The 12th Annual Ethnography Symposium, Stream 5 on Infrastructures of Education.


  • Analysis of data infrastructures
  • How infrastructures build and transform standards and classifications
  • How infrastructures fabricate new spaces of governance
  • The performative effects of specific infrastructures, ranging from teaching over management to data visuals
  • Examinations of infrastructures of new governing reforms
  • Non-human agency as constitutive to infrastructures
  • The affective aspects of infrastructure
  • Methodological challenges related to the examination of infrastructures


Bowker, G. C., & Star, S. L. (2000). Sorting Things Out. Classification and Its Consequences. Massachusetts: MIT Press Brøgger, K. (2016). The Rule of Mimetic Desire in Higher Education: Governing through naming, shaming and faming. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(1), 72-91.

Larkin B (2013) The politics and poetics of infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology 42: 327–73.

Pironti, J (2006). Key elements of a threat and vulnerability management program. Information Systems, Audit and Control Association Journal (ISACA) 3 : 52‐6.

Ratner, H & Gad, C (forthcoming) Data warehousing organization: infrastructural experimentation with educational governance, Organization.

Reeves M (2017): The black list: On infrastructural indeterminacy and its reverberations. In: Harvey P, Bruun Jensen C and Morita A (eds) Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Companion. London: Routledge, pp. 296–308.


That participants:

  • Gain insight into the role of infrastructures, including particular steering and information technologies, in (trans)na-tional governance, policy and practice.
  • Can analyze and assess the links between data, knowledge and governance, including how these materialize i comparison, accountability and performance management
  • Discuss and evaluate the meanings and impact that the above developments are likely to have on governance and management in the public sector and lived lives

Target group:

This course mainly targets PhD students with an interest in public sector governance, including education governance, with a special interest in the ways in which modes of governance are constituted through (data) infrastructures.




The course will consist in lectures, teacher moderated group sessions focusing on students’ projects, and individual lap-top time




Helene Ratner, helr[at]

Katja Brøgger, kb[at]

Madeleine  Reeves, Madeleine.Reeves[at]

Dates and time:

6 – 8 November 2018, all-day course


Campus Emdrup, Tuborgvej 164, 2400 Copenhagen NV, room to be announced.

Deadline for application:

Apply no later Nov. 1, here.