As early as the 1910s, African drivers in colonial Ghana understood the possibilities that using imported motor transport could further the social and economic agendas of a diverse array of local agents, including chiefs, farmers, traders, fishermen, and urban workers. Jennifer Hart's powerful narrative of auto-mobility shows how drivers built on old trade routes to increase the speed and scale of motorized travel. Hart reveals that new forms of labor migration, economic enterprise, cultural production, and social practice were defined by autonomy and mobility and thus shaped the practices and values that formed the foundations of Ghanaian society today. Focusing on the everyday lives of individuals who participated in this century of social, cultural, and technological change, Hart comes to a more sensitive understanding of the ways in which these individuals made new technology meaningful to their local communities and associated it with their future aspirations.
“Jennifer Hart has an acute ear for listening to stories and noticing important themes in the narratives and archives. Such fascinating material.”
— Jamie Monson, author of Africa's Freedom Railway
“Automobile technology was quickly and fluidly remade and redefined to suit local uses--in ways that alter how we think about economy, society, and modernity, as well as modes of African inventiveness: the capacity to divert, adapt, or redesign material goods or objects, how we think about them, their histories, and cultural possibilities.”
— William Cunningham Bissell, author of Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Auto/Mobile Lives
1. "All Shall Pass": Indigenous Entrepreneurs, Colonial Technopolitics, and the Roots of African Automobility, 1901-1939
2. "Honest Labor": Public Safety, Private Profit, and the Professionalization of Drivers, 1930-1945
3. "Modern Men": Motor Transportation and the Politics of Respectability, 1930s-1960s
4. "One Man, No Chop": Licit Wealth, Good Citizens, and the Criminalization of Drivers in Postcolonial Ghana
5. "Sweet Not Always": Automobility, State Power, and the Politics of Development, 1980s-1990s
Epilogue. "No Rest for the Trotro Driver": Ambivalence and Automobility in 21st Century Ghana