This panel looks at technological innovation from the perspective of how time is thought and represented in different ways. Panelists are asked to present empirical work on the unfolding of routines, rhythms, and representations of time in sites of large-scale technological innovation in Africa.
Processes of change in Africa are inextricably related to innovations in social, political and material technologies. Most research has regarded this relation teleologically, based on notions of secularized progress and western political modernity. This panel proposes to understand technological innovation from the perspective of how time is conceptualized and represented in different ways. It focuses on how heterogeneous representations of the future - as a site of desire and anticipation - are entangled with narrations of the past - as the site of memory - and the present as lived and experienced in its "multiplicity of times, trajectories, and rationalities" (Mbembe 2001: 9). In this panel, we approach the complex constellation of overlapping significations of time, and of the future in particular, through the lens of large-scale technological projects in Africa. If imaginations of the future are mediated within "anticipatory assemblages" (Groves 2016) that operate through specific routines, deadlines, and schedules, what kinds of competing anticipations do these large-scale projects, typically involving actors at all levels of governance, entail? Which (political) rationalities ensue from these temporal overlaps or frictions? What are their effects? The panel seeks conceptually inspired contributions that provide a critical analytical lens on the temporal dimensions of technological innovation. Panellists are asked to present empirical work on the unfolding of routines, rhythms, and representations of the past, present and future in urban or rural sites of large-scale technological innovation in Africa.