Listen Deep to Subterranean Kinfrastructures




infrastructure, waterscapes, Sydney, deep listening, kin


This letter – addressed to the people of Sydney – contains an invitation. As a collection of reflections and thoughts it relates to four core ideas. (1) Urban undergrounds like tunnels, drains, and caverns, are vibrant and nourishing places. They are ecosystems and they are habitats. Undergrounds also present generous opportunities to consider parts of their city that are often made out-of-bounds. The cultural richness of the subterranean city can evoke a profound kind of connection for a city’s people. (2) I affirm that people can connect more meaningfully to a city by engaging in processes of listening to their city. More specifically, I refer to the practice of ‘deep listening’ to undergrounds. (3) Enacting this sonic connection can be mediated by planning that responds to the ‘cry for the right to the city’. (4) The infrastructures that thread into and amongst undergrounds often provide opportunities for nonhuman life to thrive and is so doing necessitate responsibility for humans to care for these infrastructures as kin especially when they are damaged by pollution or degradation. Water flows underneath cities. It flows through gutters into drains, pipes, and canals. It flows, often unseen, and even more often with voices unheard. This letter prompts stillness and reflection of these voices.

Author Biography

Taylor Coyne, University of New South Wales

I am a Human Geographer, PhD candidate, Sessional Lecturer and Tutor in the Environment and Society Group at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. Drawing on urban political ecology and environmental history my work seeks to understand how waters are known, placed and heard. Through my work, I explore the relationships between water, sound, urban design, knowledges, and justice across metropolitan Sydney. I have a strong focus on urban water and so am interested in flooding in cities, in particular those that have emerged through settler-colonial projects. I see my work at being at the intersection of urban geography, environmental history, urban design and settler-colonial studies. Across all of these is the enduring presence of water.