Circa 1892: Public Works Departments and the everyday building of the Portuguese empire






The effect of the built environment on the culture and daily lives of the people in colonial territories has been already extensively discussed. Public works history encompasses a vast array of technological knowledge and exchanges, normally viewed and studied separately. Based on previous research that showed the importance of looking at local public works structures and at their role in the transformations of territories, both in specific contexts and as a whole, this proposal brings together the several ‘histories of the colonial built environment’ - administrative, urban, architecture, sanitation and hygiene infrastructures, engineering, public health - by looking at public works as a process. Building on the views of several authors who have showed that the practice of science is embedded with space and place, and is transformed by the practices of everyday life and routinization, it aims to understand how different actors shape the production of the built environment by transforming tecnoscientific knowledge, in diverse ways, through daily practices and encounters.



By identifying, mapping and visualizing the networks established between the different territories of the Portuguese empire, this project focuses on the public works ‘in action’. By approaching the empire as a whole, this proposal will achieve both a comparative and relational portrait of public works' daily life in those territories.  
Thinking about technoscientific knowledge as an entanglement of encounters, where frontiers are at all times being established, surpassed and negotiated, it is significant a contribution to the strategic plan of the host institution. By using a historical case study, it also aims to give to present-day governance a better understanding of a built environment, deeply transformed during the long 19th century contributing to a sustainable development of contemporary territories.


Start: 2019

Duration: 72 months

Principal Investigator: Alice Santiago Faria (CHAM)




- Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Main Research Unit

- CHAM — Centro de Humanidades / Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa | Universidade dos Açores

- Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa