Jennifer Hart

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.  She twice served as the primary instructor for the African Democracy Project at Wayne State, serving as a co-leader on study abroad courses in Tanzania and Ghana.  She is leading a new study abroad program, African Cities: Accra, in July 2017 in collaboration with Ashesi University. She also serves on the advisory boards for the Master's in Public History program, the Global Studies program, the Religious Studies program, and the North American Labor History Conference.

Research Interest/Area of Expertise

  • African History

  • Urban History

Research

Jennifer Hart has been doing research in Accra (Ghana) and London for the last ten years. She interested in the everyday lived experiences of Africans, and the varied ways the mundane of everyday life intersects with 20th century liberal ideals (development, citizenship, modernization, democracy, etc.).  Jennifer has published articles in the International Journal of African Historical Studies, International Review of Social History, and African Economic History, and her recent book, Ghana on the Go: African Mobility in the Age of Motor Transportation, is available through Indiana University Press. In this book, 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. Her interest in Africa also extends beyond research. Jennifer is also involved in debates about contemporary African politics and development, as well as religion, music, art, and performance across the continent.  She writes about these and other issues on her blog:  www.ghanaonthego.com

Education – Degrees, Licenses, Certifications

  • 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

Selected Publications

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

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.

Currently Teaching

  •  HIS 1600, African Civilizations to 1800 (3 cr.)

  • HIS 4993, History Communication (3 cr.)

Incremental Coursework

  • Anthropology

  • Digital History

  • Religious Studies

  • Political Science