Irmelin Joelsson

Irmelin Joelsson

DPhil Student
Postgraduate Associate Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities 

St Cross College

My research project explores the urban transformations in post-socialist Tanzania through the ethnography of a bridge situated in central Dar es Salaam. As the city grows with unprecedented speed, the need to establish new modes of circulation as well as connecting fragmented urban space has become acute. Against this background, I explore the social and material dimensions of infrastructure; the practices and enactments of “bridge-making.” An issue central to the research is how the bridge generates both possibilities and hopes and new architectures of uncertainty and risk for the city. More specifically, I am interested in the various “insurance strategies” performed in the hedging against the risks infrastructure engenders, both in its institutionalised and its popular forms. By paying attention to the multifaceted life of a bridge, my research contributes to the emerging literature on infrastructural and technological change in Africa.

I have a background in contemporary art and curating. I am currently working on a visual account of Tanzanian urban life together with a colleague in Dar es Salaam where our work has been exhibited. 

Research interest

Urban ethnography, anthropology of infrastructure and logistics, material culture, economic life, technological urban landscapes, archival research


Joelsson, I., (2016), When ‘doing it for the connections’ in Dar es Salaam. Presented at the AEGIS Summer School: Urban Africa – Urban Africans: Emergent Spaces and Multiple Representations21-25 June 2016, Cagliari, Italy.

Joelsson, I,. (2015) Bridging the gap? Mapping “speculative practices” in Dar es Salaam. The Kigamboni Bridge project. Presented at the Academy of Urban Super Diversity, organized by Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, 8-10 April 2015, Berlin, Germany.

Joelsson, I,. Glacier: Melting Archive. Publication exhibited at Sarai Reader 09: The Exhibition. August 18 2012 – April 15 2013, Delhi, India.

Joelsson, I,. Att adressera: AbdouMaliq Simone. Paletten, 4: 2012 #290. 

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