Joshua Grace

Associate Professor, Department of History

PhD, History, Michigan State University, 2013

My work sits at the intersection of African social and cultural history, Science and Technology Studies, and the history of development. My book, African Motors: Automobility and the History of Development in Tanzania, 1860s to 2015 (peer reviewed and under contract with Duke University Press) establishes deep histories of African mechanical creativity and competency with automobiles, one of the most important technologies of the twentieth-century. Using oral histories, archives from Tanzania and the United Kingdom, and my own experience as a repair apprentice, the book shows how a tool of empire quickly became an African technology at the hands of variety of African users, including mechanics, drivers, oil traders, and passengers. The book thus provides African-centered histories not just of the car, but also of roads, urban transport infrastructure, and oil trading—a suite of systems often called, automobility. Most development theorists have approached these systems as Western, and consequently, distinct from African histories of technology. The book illustrates that the twenty-first century Tanzanian automobility visible on streets today grew out of nineteenth-century caravan mobilities and was given form by men and women who became car experts by migrating to towns. Formally uneducated, their informal spaces and pedagogies challenge conventional approaches to “knowledge as power” in the history of development. I am currently working on two other projects on the technopolitics of austerity and on technological histories of sustainability.

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