Roadside and travel communities. Towards an understanding of the African long-distance road




Prof. Dr. Kurt Beck





Stasik, M.A. Michael
Wadelnour, M.A. Rami


2011 - 2015


The project departs from the insight that motor roads, together with their rules and conventions for using them, are quite literally cultural constructions. In this sense, the road regime in large parts of the African continent is still under construction. Road-making and road use draw from North Atlantic models but observation of the African road and preliminary research make clear that beyond the surface of adaptation to the North Atlantic model lie large spaces of creative reinterpretations and modifications.

The project proposes an inquiry into the emerging socio-technological orders of the African road by examining quotidian users’ practices. Roadside and travel communities as well as their interactions are studied by opening four windows of inquiry on Ghana’s and Sudan’s long-distance roads: 1) the urban “lorry park”, 2) the busy and well developed inter-regional highway, 3) the unsurfaced back-country road and 4) the rest stop on overland roads.

The project builds on previous and ongoing research by the members of the team on road- and automobility-related practices in Ghana and the Sudan. As a guiding concept it uses the previously developed notion of appropriation which implies that technologies and their significations are open to significant modifications in the process of their transfer. It thereby contributes to 1) an understanding of the African road which is also expected to shed light on European road-related developments and 2) to a theory of adaptation and creativity in the context of global entanglements.