How can informal transport systems respond to the changing mobility needs of growing cities and provide viable livelihoods for their operators?
Jacob joined the Transport Studies Unit in June 2018 as a researcher on the PEAK Urban programme. His research is concerned with the everyday life of infrastructures, the dynamics of urban transformation, and the constitution of political authority in African cities.
As part of the PEAK Urban project, he is focusing on how informal transport systems like motor-bike taxis, minibuses, and walking differentially provide opportunities for social mobility and reproduce social inequalities. Rather than framing informal transport as yet another example of a continent lagging behind and in need of western intervention, he approaches traffic as a paradoxical and generative site of economic and cultural production, of unevenly distributed everyday mobility, of class and gender identities, and of political authority and contestation. The focus is not what the city lacks, but how it works, for whom, with what consequences, examining the spatial and cultural paradoxes of informal mobility in order understand how transformations in existing modes of transport shape belonging, wellbeing, and upward mobility.
Jacob completed his PhD in Anthropology at Stanford University in 2016 and also holds an MA from the New School for Social Research and a BA from the University of Mary Washington. His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and Social Science Research Council. Prior to joining the TSU he was a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Wolf Humanities Center, University of Pennsylvania.