This case study focuses specifically on artisans from Dakar, Senegal who adapted an industrialized material, aluminum, to a craft mode of production in the aftermath of World War Two. By melting down scrap aluminum and molding it into household goods, these artisans nourished demand for locally produced aluminum goods while they also built a network of casting that stretched through French West Africa and beyond. Indeed, the ubiquity of hand-crafted aluminum cooking pots and other locally produced aluminum goods in West Africa today, in the early twenty-first century, indicate that casters played an important if unheralded role in helping people to manage the rigors of urban living. Although casters are firmly part of the so-called “informal” sector, the material contributions that they have made to daily lives of people in the larger region reveal a persistent if unintended consequence of the manufacturing imperatives of World War II. They also suggest that broadening standard definitions of “infrastructure” to include other kinds of structures and processes may further enhance our understanding of the material legacies of empire.
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