Speed Governors: Road Safety and Infrastructural Overload in Post-Colonial Kenya, c. 1963–2013

Lamont, Mark (2013). Speed Governors: Road Safety and Infrastructural Overload in Post-Colonial Kenya, c. 1963–2013. Africa, 83(3) pp. 367–384.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0001972013000223


In this article, I focus on the place of road safety in Kenyan legislative history since independence in 1963 as a way of illustrating the analytic value of speed for the anthropology of the state. Road safety, a highly visible public concern in Kenya since the 1960s, offers us a way to rethink the temporal dangers and uncertainties of automotive travel under global capitalism, but also to go further in seeking out historical continuities in Kenya's post-colonial aspirations for safer and more efficient roads. This focus on road safety takes us from Africanization, in the 1960s and 1970s, to the regulatory reforms of the 1990s and 2000s in the guise of neo-liberalism. From the vociferous complaints and debates of Kenyan politicians about imported Peugeots being dangerous to drive on Kenya's rough and sparsely tarmacked roads in 1964, to the much publicized traffic crackdown of 2003, the so-called ‘Michuki Rules’, road safety is a field of study ideally suited to the analysis of infrastructural power and its transformations and continuities over a four-decade period. What is of analytic interest here is the new value of speed in an East African region that has aggressively embraced automobility as a vehicle for enhancing state sovereignty in a globalized economy.

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