Panel: Paving roads over well-trodden paths? The (dis-)use of everyday infrastructure from pre- to post-colonial Africa, 1800s to present (ECAS 2019)

Andreas Greiner, ETH Zurich; Robert Heinze, University of Berne
Andreas Greiner

We are looking for contributors to our panel at ECAS 2019, Europe's largest and most international conference with an African focus. It will take place at the University of Edinburgh on June 11-14 2019. We seek panelists from a range of disciplines with an interest in examining questions of the logics, actors, and practices that shaped infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Current work in African history throws into question the earlier binary notion of the "formal" versus the "informal" by analysing the interactions between different actors. For various settings, the evolution of everyday infrastructure such as water, electricity, or transport networks has been explored. This panel shifts the conceptual focus to the establishment of infrastructure through everyday usage in increasingly connected societies. It is especially interested in their construction and management during transition periods, i.e. from the pre-colonial to colonial to post-colonial eras, and in the ways (post-)colonial states engaged with existing infrastructure.

Infrastructure networks fashioned the lives of Africans since pre-colonial times. This panel draws attention to the logics and practices that shaped infrastructures. It explores how dynamic, everyday infrastructure systems were established and transformed. How, e.g., were road networks fashioned by people's circulation, and how were they negotiated as well as organised between different actors?

We are especially interested in the disruptions and continuities in these transition periods. To what extend did (post-)colonial rule disrupt or utilise established systems? On the other hand, did people evade spatial reorganisations and continue to shape infrastructure through everyday usage? Is there a continuity between pre-colonial and/or early colonial ways of organising infrastructure and the informal systems that developed in (post-)colonial states?

Papers could include:

- actors and formations that shaped infrastructure

- connections made through infrastructure in Africa

- everyday applications and transformations

- continuities and disruptions under colonial rule

- African responses to and adaption of colonial infrastructure

Paper proposals may be submitted by 21 January via the following link:


ETH Zurich

Panel: Paving roads over well-trodden paths? The (dis-)use of everyday infrastructure from pre- to post-colonial Africa, 1800s to present (ECAS 2019), 11.06.2019 Edinburgh, in: H-Soz-Kult, 10.01.2019, <>.