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Accepted Paper:

German trucks on Bolivian roads. When technology becomes entangled with relational worldviews.  
Manuel Moser (Universit├Ąt Erfurt)

Paper Short Abstract:

The paper traces the biographical trajectories of German second-hand heavy weight trucks transported across the Atlantic to Bolivia and explores how they are adopted into a community of indigenous trucking that includes human, non-human animals and superhuman Earth Beings alongside technology.

Paper Abstract:

Many logistics companies in Germany replace their fleet of heavy weight trucks after just four years of use due to high maintenance costs and in order to be able to offer drivers attractive new vehicles. Some of these second-hand trucks are shipped on RoRo ships to North Chilean ports, from where they are transported through the Atacama desert to Bolivia and Paraguay. In an ethnography of twelve months, I followed the trajectory of these professionally used automobiles in Germany and Bolivia and investigated how they are introduced to the communities of indigenous long-haul truck driving. In this paper, I am going to present different adoption practices of Bolivian drivers receiving German trucks. I will show that, as in Africa (Grace 2021), automobiles in Bolivia are closely linked to ideas of development and progress (Giucci 2012): Many truck drivers in Bolivia come from rural families serving as transport providers for generations, but who just recently exchanged their llama caravans for motorised vehicles. As will be shown, the drivers subsequently compare their relationship with their trucks to the relationship they had with their herd animals in past times. Concluding, I examine how trucks gain importance in networks of beings that extend beyond humanity including so-called Earth Beings (de la Cadena 2015) and what role miniaturisations of the trucks play in their well-being and productivity (alasitas, illas).

de la Cadena, Marisol (2015): Earth Beings.

Giucci, Guillermo (2012): The cultural life of the automobile.

Grace, Joshua (2021): African motors.

Panel P210
Technology matters: ethnographies of technological adoption beyond the Western world
  Session 1 Thursday 25 July, 2024, -