Emily L. Osborn F'09

Emily L. Osborn
Assistant Professor
Department of History
University of Chicago

ACLS Fellowship Program 2009
Assistant Professor
History
University of Chicago
Scrap: Aluminum Recycling, Technology Diffusion, and the Making of a West African Artisanal Network, 1945 - 2005

In the twentieth century, a dynamic market in locally produced aluminum goods has emerged in West Africa. Using the technique of sand casting, artisans melt scrap aluminum and mold it into new products, such as cooking pots, utensils, and mechanical parts. Drawing upon research conducted with aluminum casters and their clients in six West African countries, this project sheds light on forces that drove casting’s transnational diffusion through West Africa since World War II. This investigation generates a fresh perspective on the social history of the late colonial and post-colonial periods by illuminating the strategies that West Africans have used to maximize scarce financial and material resources, manage environmental pressures, and navigate the exigencies and demands of different political regimes.