This panel examines the relations between technological innovation, economic and political power, and social status through the lens of travel. Papers that engage this topic from a historical perspective, covering various means and aims, will explore how people travel or imagine to travel.
This panel seeks to explore the relations between technological innovation; economic and political power; and social status through the lens of travel. Travel is crucial to cities as the means through which new inhabitants arrive and move about, and as it connects African cities to global urban networks. In Africa as elsewhere, the introduction of new mechanical means of transport broadened real and imagined horizons, creating new dynamics in all spheres of life. Travel alters and reinforces human hierarchies. Social economic and political status determines who gets to travel, how fast and how far, with what means of transport at their disposal, and to what parts of urban African global society. Over time, these patterns have changed due to technological development, changes in infrastructure, and changes in the organisation of travel through infrastructure, as well as through changes in economic and political power. Actual travel, the imagination of travel, and the status of having travelled, play an important role in the status claims of elites, as well as in the aspirations of the poor. What means of transport, at what costs and with what goals, do Africans use in their every day lives, as well as in more exceptional circumstances of travel? What is the relation between the goal and length of the journey and the form travel takes? Bringing together papers that engage this topic from a historical perspective, covering a range of types of travel, we will explore how people travel or imagine to travel.