Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Speed matters : an ethnography of a Ghanaian highway : its perils and potentialities
Author: Klaeger, Gabriel
ISNI:       0000 0000 7371 3424
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2014
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
African roads give rise to ambivalence in both Africans and Africanists. Masquelier has pointed to the "profoundly contradictory nature of roads as objects of both fascination and terror", spaces "of both fear and desire". My research on the Accra-Kumasi road, one of Ghana's major highways, bore out these tensions. Both now and in the past, Ghanaians have associated this road with perils and potentialities, notably those of excessive speed, in Ghanaian English 'overspeeding'. Drawing on a year of ethnographic fieldwork, I explore the everyday lives of the people who dwell, work and move alongside the Accra-Kumasi road. I aim to contribute to the small but growing body of anthropological work on roads and within this, to a phenomenology of the practices and experiences of different road users. I introduce this world via a discussion of the stories and rumours concerning a particular section of the Ghanaian highway, which have to be understood in terms of the changing historical, political, economic and infrastructural contexts that its residents draw upon. I then turn from discourse to the practical ways that people navigate the frequently complex tasks of roadside dwelling and trading, commercial bus driving, and travelling. My ethnography encompasses the kinetic, spatial, entrepreneurial, sociable and at times religious practices of road users as they explore the opportunities and perils and uncertainties that are thrown up by and around the road. In analysing these practices, I consider in particular the perceptions, skills, bodies and emotions as they engage in intricate temporalities, diverse rhythms, and sensations of speed. Throughout my thesis, I demonstrate how the road as an experiential environment foregrounds people's recurrent concerns with matters of speed. Speed, definitely a commercial imperative on the Accra-Kumasi road, is perceived and performed within a range of 'dromocentric' (fast or rushed) practices. Yet people also encounter slowness and even standstill, and stress the values of waiting, relaxing and patience. I therefore trace Ghanaians' engagements with differing paces of movement and action, and with their contradictory sides: both appealing and perilous, able to reward but also to backfire. Experiences of the road are complexly enmeshed with a range of practices and preferences; they provoke dilemmas when competing and ambiguous speeds are at stake. These dilemmas of speed are not peculiar to the road; they also arise when other concerns of life in contemporary Ghana are brought into focus as speeds, perils and uncertainties mount up.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral