Reviews are beginning to come in for Ghana on the Go: African Mobility in the Age of Motor Transportation! I read an article in the New York Times yesterday about how we are, collectively, too close to our own work and, thus, our own least reliable critic. The article went on to talk about how your job as author was not serve as your own harshest critic but rather to do the work. I’ve always been pretty good about that – I try to balance inherent self-doubt, self-criticism, and perfectionism with the need to get things done. I also try to remember that everything I write will be interpreted in widely varying ways by individual scholars and the general public, and that process of interpretation is largely out of my hands. That has been made clear in the sometimes surprising responses to my own published articles – things I thought were boring I was told students loved, for example – but is highlighted even more on this blog where I can see in daily statistics how much and where (at least in terms of nationality) my writing circulates. That said, I have had some lingering anxiety over reviews from the moment I sent the final page proofs back to the editor. Three very thoughtful reviews have come out so far, and I am so grateful for the kind words of praise but also just as much for the thoughtful commentary and critiques, which highlight space for further research in the interconnected fields of auto/mobility, the history of technology, labor history/the history of work, and the history of capitalism. Check out the highlights below, click on available links to view the original reviews (where available), and buy your copy now if you haven’t already! I’m always happy to discuss the ideas in this book or any of my other work!
Sarah Kunkel, “Africans on the go to make do: Making local sense of global developments”, Labor History (2017): 1-7. DOI: 10.1080/0023656X.2017.1285532.
“Ghana on the Go is a central contribution to the understanding of how African commercial enterprise contributed to the overall economic development in the twentieth century. “
“Ghana on the Go is as much the history of the rise of African commercial enterprise as of the development of neoliberal politics. Hart’s focus on a specific enterprise allows us to detect the changes not only from colonial to independent politics, but also emphasises the shift from state capitalism to neoliberalism in the independent period, reminding us of a more differentiated use of the term ‘post-colonial’ politics.”
“Ghana on the Go is African history of work in its most literal sense, and is contributing to an expanded notion of what that history of work entails (Bhattacharya, 2014. In S. Bhattacharya (Ed.), Towards a new history of work (pp. 300–316). New Delhi: Tulika Books. [Google Scholar], pp. 3–5).”
Gordon Pirie, The Journal of Transport History 38(1) (March 2017) (38) (1) DOI: 10.1177/0022526617695450 (link)
“Jennifer Hart’s text sweeps triumphantly across a century of automobility in colonial and post-colonial Ghana. The thoroughness of her analysis is marked out by lengthy field work in Ghana that involved travel in modern trotros and in an iconic ‘mammy wagon’, conversations in lorry parks and elsewhere (noted in the Acknowledgements), some 70 interviews, and an impressive range of archive and library sources.”
“Ghana on the Go is a sophisticated, clear and inspiring account of how the technology of motorised transport has been used by ordinary and diverse drivers and passengers to achieve entrepreneurial goals and meet aspirations for modernity. It is also a study of how a predominantly commercial automobility took root and was grafted onto a pre-existing set of mobilities and mobility values.”
“Hart’s well-informed monograph glides expertly and dexterously across historic periods, technologies and governmentalities. Five imaginatively titled chronological chapters work with the notion that Ghana’s automobile drivers (mostly male, but not exclusively) have been cast variously as ingenious and indigenous workers, admirable and honest, as public servants, as modern, as criminals and as agents of development. They, their vehicles and their infractions have featured continually in media and in private and public discussions about service, roads, fares and safety.”
“Straddling past and present, Ghana on the Go is meticulously researched, richly detailed, beautifully composed and elegantly constructed. Its alert and deep scholarship is luminous. It reveals splendidly the complex layers and overlaps in transport provision, delivery and use. It is a marvellous book. It takes its place among the most insightful and rewarding analyses of transportation in Africa and helps lifts studies of (past) transport there onto par with fine mobility research anywhere.”
Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, International Journal of African Historical Studies (2017) (50) (1): 175-176 (link)
“Hart provides an intriguing story about masculine identity formation and the complex factors that informed this process.”
“By focusing on southern Ghana, Hart describes the actions of drivers in the region as they navigated the contested terrains of motor transport, the mobilities it afforded them, and the attendant regulations and challenges of colonial and postcolonial economic development.”
“Hart provides the reader with a nuanced and richly textured narrative about the culture and practice of African automobility. This book is a welcome addition to a growing field that centers on the experiences of “everyday” Africans who often remain marginal in the social, development, and economic histories of colonial and postcolonial African societies. This well-written book deeply engages with the dynamics of African mobility and constitutes a major contribution to twentieth-century Ghanaian history.”