“Cars After (Tanzanian) Socialism: Or, Were there Historical Alternatives to Self-Devouring Automobility?” ⎻ Josh Grace

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1418 Van Hise Hall
@ 2:30 pm
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2024 “Embodied Africa” Lecture Series

Book Talk Abstract

Of the many things said about socialism’s global demise in the late 20th century, few have centered its impact on global mobility regimes. From Hungary and the Soviet Union to China and Tanzania, private motoring was not only placed outside of proper socialist conduct, but also widely framed as a destructive social, political, and economic threat. In recent decades, critiques of mass automobility skirt these earlier socialist critiques, emphasizing instead motoring’s environmental threat and contributions to global climate change. Rooted in repair garages and urban buses in Tanzania’s socialist period, this talk will examine historical alternatives to the self-devouring automobility that has shaped world history for the last four decades. It asks: How does the search for socialist technological alternatives to development shape histories of (un)sustainability? And how might socialist histories inform historical work written in increasingly unsustainable times?

About the Speaker

Dr. Joshua Grace (he/him/his) is an Associate Professor of African History, Director of Graduate Studies, and is currently a McCausland Faculty Fellow in the University of South Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences. His work explores the intersection of technology and development in African history. It tackles a common stereotype about the continent’s past: that its societies lack development because they historically have not had the technology or knowledge societies in the Global North possess. Grace debunks this myth using hundreds of oral histories in Kiswahili, his apprenticeship in an automobile repair shop in Dar es Salaam, and archives in East Africa and the United Kingdom. His book, African Motors: Technology, Gender, and the History of Development in Tanzania (Duke University Press, October 2021), demonstrates that Africans have shaped car designs and motor vehicle culture since the early-1900s. That East African societies possess these cultures of mobility and mechanical expertise, he argues, should reshape assumptions about which societies possess useful knowledge for pursuing economic development or more sustainable societies.