Accepted paper:

Drivers of Regional Integration: Blood and Solidarity on the Road and Online with the SADC Truck Drivers Association


Wolfgang Zeller (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This exploratory paper offers glimpses into frontline trenches of supply chain capitalism in Southern Africa. Life in cross-border transport corridors reeks of diesel, dust and body fluids. The boss is tracking you on satellite. A roadblock, death and the end of your airtime bundle is always near.

Paper long abstract:

I am still kicking ideas around about what exactly I want to do with the rich ethnographic material I have gathered from the time I have spent since late 2015, on the road, in offices and online, with cross-border transport corridor truckers and those who manage and regulate their work in Southern Africa. This paper is a first attempted write-up of some of the thematic clusters that emerge from that material and that, I think, merit further exploration and analysis. Although the managers and regulators play a role in this paper, it is the truckers I would like to focus on. Beck et al. write: "the African road emerges as a co-production of different communities of practice (…) constituted by the specific interactions of travel and roadside communities" (Beck, Klaeger and Stasik 2017). Because being on the road is a constant back and forth between phases of movement and stoppage, cross-border truckers are both a closely integrated travel community as well as (at least part-time) members of multiple roadside communities. Cross-border truckers, through their regular interaction on the road an online, are also a transnational community of practice. Within this larger community, there is a very strong sense of shared purpose, experience, identity and solidarity that is routinely expressed and reaffirmed in conversations by the roadside and online. But although it is often verbally invoked by the drivers, there is not one happy "trucking fraternity" across Southern Africa.

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panel Anth21
Making a living on & off the road - trucking and the politics of movement and stoppage in Africa