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Scripting mobilities in sub-Saharan Africa: a case study of second-hand bicycle networks

Baker, Lucy 2018. Scripting mobilities in sub-Saharan Africa: a case study of second-hand bicycle networks. PhD Thesis, Cardiff Unversity.
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This thesis explores a network of international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs), donors, development subjects and materials, in order to understand the politics of designing mobilities for development. It does this by tracing the flow of second-hand bicycles from their production in the Global North to Namibia, sub-Saharan Africa. An analytical framework of Script Analysis is used to examine the social and technical meanings that are written into second-hand bicycles as they are re-valued for use in the Global South. Following the bicycles to Namibia, the thesis examines how users subscribe to, reject and adapt the bicycles’ social meanings and physical properties in local contexts in order to suit their needs. The thesis finds that the bicycle is prescribed singularly as an object that intends to technologically modernise homogenous utilitarian subjects in inaccessible ‘rural’ Africa. A scene is set onto which an appropriate piece of machinery is inserted. Desirable industrious activities are promoted and less productive practices, such as play, embodied sensory experiences of mobility and identity performance, tend to be discouraged. The thesis finds that with little opportunity for negotiation between designers and users, the needs and desires of Namibian consumers are being dictated. The proscriptions and politics of the network are further compounded by the second-hand materiality of the bikes, which reduce the flexibility of producers to respond to users. NGOs are also operating under pressure to align to the current trends and expectations of donors. Meanwhile, in a local context bicycles are proscribed by sand and thorns, a lack of infrastructure and gender norms, for example. The thesis demonstrates the complexity of design, which goes beyond a linear process, also includes heterogeneous social and material entities that relationally act in conflict with a prescribed and universal ‘tool’ for mobility imagined by NGOs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mobility; Transport; Development; Africa; Bicycles; Secondhand; Script Analysis; Cycling; Namibia; NGOs
Funders: ESRC, Cardiff University School of Geography and Planning
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 September 2018
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 09:01

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