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The City Electric: Infrastructure and Ingenuity in Postsocialist Tanzania

by Michael Degani

Duke University Press, 2022


Paper: 978-1-4780-1914-5

eISBN: 978-1-4780-2377-7

OA eISBN: 978-1-4780-9281-0

Cloth: 978-1-4780-1650-2

About the Book
Over the last twenty years of neoliberal reform, the power supply in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s metropolis, has become less reliable even as its importance has increased. Though mobile phones, televisions, and refrigerators have flooded the city, the electricity required to run these devices is still supplied by the socialist-era energy company Tanesco, which is characterized by increased fees, aging infrastructure, and a sluggish bureaucracy. While some residents contemplate off-grid solutions, others repair, extend, or tap into the state network with the assistance of freelance electricians or moonlighting utility employees. In The City Electric Michael Degani explores how electricity and its piracy has become a key site for urban Tanzanians to enact, experience, and debate their social contract with the state. Moving from the politics of generation contracts down to the street-level experience of blackouts and disconnection patrols, he reveals the logics of infrastructural modification and their effects on everyday life. As politicians, residents, electricians, and utility inspectors all redistribute flows of payment and power, they reframe the energy grid both as a technical system and as an ongoing experiment in collective interdependence.
About the Author
Michael Degani is Assistant Professor of Environmental Anthropology at Cambridge University.
"As The City Electric so expertly shows, infrastructure then becomes a way to explore the moral economy of provisioning, from the headline grabbing corruption scandals over multi-million dollar contracts to everyday negotiations where people decide by what means, and to what extent, they will bend the rules to gain access to the electricity grid. In Degani’s hands, the channel where electricity sometimes passes and sometimes doesn’t, is an incredibly rich site for analysing movements of power more generally."

-- Emily Brownell Journal of Development Studies

"Degani’s The City Electric is useful not only to energy anthropologists but also to the larger STS community. It is an outcome of meticulous research and uses persuasive English to convey its substance."

-- Frank Edward Technology and Culture

"Degani’s work combines both archival and ethnographic analyses into a coherent and engaging narrative helping us to gain unique perspectives on the everyday life of neoliberalism and the post-socialist state in Tanzania. The book will be of great interest and utility to scholars interested in the critical analyses of contemporary infrastructures and for those interested in the politics of neoliberalism in the Global South more generally."

-- Viswanathan Venkataraman H-Sci-Med-Tech, H-Net Reviews

Tanzania, Infrastructure, Electric utilities, Electric power distribution, Electric power transmission, Reliability, Dar es Salaam, Ingenuity, Urban, Africa, Sociology, Cultural & Social, Anthropology, Social Science, History
Open Access Information

Label: Johns Hopkins University

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0