Associate Professor, Department of History
Affiliate Faculty, Department of Anthropology
3119 Faculty/Administration Building
Jennifer Hart is an Associate Professor in the History Department, where she teaches courses in African History, World History, Digital History, History Communication, and historical methodologies. Every other summer, Jennifer leads a study abroad program to Ghana, West Africa, where students engage in research with community members in the capital city, Accra. She also serves on the advisory boards for the Master's in Public History program, the Global Studies program, and she coordinates the Digital History/History Communication initiative in the History Department, advises students in the Digital History track for the MAPH, and coordinates the interdisciplinary Digital Humanities minor. She is currently the co-chair of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Steering Committee through the Office of the Provost, and she is the North American President for the International Society for the Scholarship on Teaching and Learning in History.
Hart is affiliate faculty in the Department of Anthropology
Research interest(s)/area of expertise
Jennifer Hart has been doing research in Accra (Ghana) and London for the last fifteen years. Her work challenges modernist conceptions of spatial and economic development, studying the ways in which Africans imagined alternative futures for themselves and their countries, using and adapting technologies in new and meaningful ways and articulating new values of expertise and skills. Jennifer has published articles in the International Journal of African Historical Studies, International Review of Social History, and African Economic History, Technology and Culture, the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, and her recent book, Ghana on the Go: African Mobility in the Age of Motor Transportation (Indiana University Press, 2016), which was a 2017 finalist for the prestigious Herskovits Prize from the African Studies Association. In Ghana on the Go, Hart traces how different groups of Ghanaians shaped a distinct culture of automobility that reflected both the influence of foreign technological cultures and the socioeconomic priorities of African residents throughout the 20th century. She argues that early African appropriation of motor transportation technology and its subsequent expansion as an important economic sector, both as a niche for African entrepreneurs and as a primary mode of public transportation for both passengers and goods, allowed Africans in the Gold Coast/Ghana to have greater role in defining what autonomy meant and how it was exercised in the 20th century.
Hart is currently developing a digital humanities component of this project, called Accra Wala: Mapping Mobility, Culture and History in Contemporary Ghana, which will provide an interactive online map of the public transport system in Accra, tracing the routes of informal trotros (or mini-buses) and documenting the sights, sounds, and visual and oral histories of Ghana’s transport scene on a publicly-accessible website. Her second project is a social and cultural history of late-colonial and postcolonial Accra. This project uses archival research, material culture, popular culture, and oral histories to trace the ways in which the politics of urban planning and the development of urban culture were influenced by (and influenced) the emergence of the Accra metropolitan area as a center of national and international attention and interaction.
Inspired in part by Accra Wala, Hart is working on a new book - Making an African City: Spatial Politics and Local Development in 20th Century Accra. This book traces the various ways in which African residents sought to shape the city, often against or outside of formal urban development plans. While government policy and public discourse has often talked about these activities as "informal" and used that informality as an excuse to regulate and/or criminalize African urban residents, this book traces the emergence of informalization as a historical processes and suggests new ways that we can understand urban politics by placing urban residents at the center of development visions.
As part of this project, Hart is involved in two research groups. "DIY Urbanism in Africa", which includes researchers from Sweden, the US, Egypt, Malawi, Nigeria, and Ghana, explores alternative planning and development models for African cities by centering African expertise. Through that research group, she helps run workshops and alternative planning schools that re-imagine what planning policy and education might look like on the African continent and generates comparative conversations about how cities like Detroit might learn from African urban strategies. "Technology Users", which includes researchers from Costa Rica, the US, and Germany, explores how global technology becomes locally meaningful as users appropriate and transform technological objects.
Jennfier writes frequently for public audiences on Twitter, on her own blog (www.ghanaonthego.com), on Africa is a Country and Clio and the Contemporary, on the Instagram-embedded art project This Trotro Life, and in TAP Narratives.
- Ph.D., History, Indiana University, 2011
- M.A., History, Indiana University, 2007
- B.A., International Studies and Philosophy, Denison University, 2005
Awards and grants
Humanities Center Faculty Fellowship, 2015
University Research Grant, 2015
Research Enhancement Award, 2015
Residency Fellowship, Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, University of Michigan, 2012-2013
Humanites Center Faculty Fellowship, 2012
Jennifer Hart, Ghana on the Go: African Mobility in the Age of Motor Transportation (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press), 2016
*Finalist for the Herskovits Prize, African Studies Association
Jennifer A. Hart, “Of Pirate Drivers and Honking Horns: Mobility, Authority, and Urban Planning in Late-Colonial Accra”, Technology and Culture, forthcoming April 2020.
Jennifer Hart. "Histories of Transportation and Mobility in Africa." In The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Oxford University Press. Article published [forthcoming]. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.013.ORE_AFH-00444.R1
Jennifer Hart, "Informality, Urban Transport Infrastructure, and the Lessons of History in Accra, Ghana". In Routledge Handbook of Urban Planning in Africa. Carlos Nunes Silva (ed.) (London/New York: Routledge), forthcoming 2020.
Peter Cole and Jennifer Hart, “Trade, Transport, and Services” in Handbook: Global History of Work, Karin Hofmeester and Marcel van der Linden, eds (Munich: Walter de Gruyter Publishers), 2017.
Jennifer Hart, “’Nifa Nifa’: Technopolitics, Mobile Workers, and the Ambivalence of Decline in Acheampong’s Ghana”, African Economic History 44 (October 2016): 181-201.
Jennifer A. Hart, “Motor Transportation, Trade Unionism, and the Culture of Work in Colonial Ghana” (Special Issue: “Labor in Transport: Histories from the Global South [Africa, Asia, and Latin America] 1700 to 2000”), International Review of Social History 59 (2014), 185-209. Reprinted in Labor in Transport: Histories from the Global South, c. 1750-1950, Stefano Bellucci, Larissa Rosa Correa, Jan-George Deutsch, and Chitra Joshi, eds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2014.
Jennifer A. Hart. “’One Man, No Chop’: Licit Wealth, Good Citizens, and the Criminalization of Drivers in Postcolonial Ghana”, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 46:3 (December 2013), 373-396.
HIS 1610: Africa Since 1800 (3cr)
HIS 8310: World History Seminar (3cr)