Using the past to imagine the future : the TAZARA railway, 1925-1976

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This dissertation explores the self-referencing and reiterative nature of development planning through an historical investigation into fifty years of development debates that preceded the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia (TAZARA) railway. The railway connects the Zambian copperbelt with the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam. It was first conceived in the colonial period and built after independence with Chinese technical and financial assistance. Chinese engineers were only the last in a long line of development planners who were inspired by the prospect of building this railway. The first two chapters of this dissertation explore the meaning of the debates that enveloped railway surveys in two iterations of British-led development planning during the colonial era, from 1925 to 1930 and from 1946 to 1952. The second two chapters move to examine how African development planners and nationalist politicians revived the project after independence, exploring the processes by which a colonial development project was rehabilitated to become a nation-building project worthy of mass appeal and popular effort. The result is a project-based history of development planning in and for colonial and postcolonial Tanzania and Zambia that reveals not only the multi-valence and mutability of development planning, but the intersections and interconnections between successive development planning exercises. Analysis of the long history of development planning associated with one project reveals how developers' future-looking orientation does not preclude attention to the past. However much the newly-independent governments of Zambia and Tanzania sought in the 1960s to mark a distinct break from colonial-era policies and politics, their rhetorical erasure of the past hardly precluded strategic use of knowledge produced in the name and expectation of development during colonial rule. Each iteration of the TAZARA project returned to the development archive associated with it, re-inflecting and re-framing its contents to serve drastically different political imperatives. This dissertation shows the ways in which, at the level of the project, "the past" has proved technically expedient, politically useful, and central to development planning as an intellectual and practical enterprise. It shows how development planners marshaled the past, and, like historians, made selective use of the development archive, reinterpreting and translating its contents to craft arguments that bolstered their personal views on how and why the railway should or should not be built and, ultimately, what future they sought for the region. The uses of history were multiple and mutable -- changing at each stage not only according to the exigencies of the speaker but also shaped by the rapidly changing political and economic contexts into which development debates at each period were embedded. Studying the history of development planning in colonial and postcolonial Tanzania and Zambia reveals how developers use the past to imagine the future.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2013
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Bourbonniere, Michelle Elise
Associated with Stanford University, Department of History.
Primary advisor Roberts, Richard, active 1899
Thesis advisor Roberts, Richard, active 1899
Thesis advisor Ferguson, James
Thesis advisor Hanretta, Sean, 1972-
Advisor Ferguson, James
Advisor Hanretta, Sean, 1972-


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Michelle Elise Bourbonniere.
Note Submitted to the Department of History.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2013.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2013 by Michelle Elise Bourbonniere

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