Bus stations are among the most prominent locations of everyday social and economic activity in Africa, and they are surprisingly understudied. In this panel, we seek to explore the significance, multifunctionality and diversity of bus stations in Africa.
Bus stations are among the most prominent locations of everyday social and economic activity in Africa. The African lorry park, motor park, gare routière or terminal rodoviário is a hub of travel, transport and mobility; a centre of trade, commerce and the informal service industry; and a nodal point for the circulation of value, knowledge, meaning and ideology. Issues pertaining to social, cultural, economic and political domains fold together in Africa's bus stations in exceptionally dense ways. Comparable to African marketplaces, they are sites of proliferous encounters. Yet as Paul Nugent (2010) has recently noted, while "markets have received their fair share of academic treatment, lorry parks have not received nearly enough attention as interactive spaces". In this panel, we invite Africanist researchers from all disciplinary backgrounds to present their approaches to, and empirical findings on, the significance, multifunctionality and diversity of what Polly Hill (1984) has suggestively termed "peoples' airport" in Africa. We welcome historical and contemporary perspectives on bus stations in both urban and rural settings. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, explorations of bus stations as places of work, trade, travel, commuting, dwelling and crime; their role in African (auto)mobilities, road regimes and infrastructures; their relation to (urban) governance, reform, (de)regulation, privatisation and the political economy.