Enacting East Africa

Enacting East Africa

Kevin Donovan

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Traffic Density on the East African Railways (EAR&H Annual Report 1962)

My research studies the ambiguities and tensions that emerge as sovereign states integrate economically and politically with their neighbors. In particular, I am conducting archival and ethnographic research in East Africa, a region that has been the locus of considerable integrative efforts in the long twentieth century. Importantly, these efforts at supranational market formation and political federation have rarely proceeded to fruition, serving to highlight the contradictions immanent as colonial authorities and postcolonial states seek autonomy without autarky. Regionalization is a risky project of reformulating social space, linking economic infrastructures, aligning institutional plans, and articulating cultural norms and temporalities. My research studies the symbolic and material contests that have defined three generations of regional planning in East Africa: British colonialism, the decades following decolonization, and the ongoing efforts of the East African Community. I am particularly interested in the infrastructural efforts of regional planners and the frictions that manifest with more popular modes of understanding, practices of exchange, and structures of feeling.