Assistant Professor

Jonas Van der Straeten

Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences


Jonas van der Straeten is Assistant Professor at the Technology, Innovation and Society Group (starting in March 2022). In his research, he studies processes of technological change in Africa and Asia from a systemic, transdisciplinary, and global perspective. His major areas of interest are electricity, housing, and – more recently – mobility. Jonas has a track record both as a historian of technology and as a consultant for projects on energy access in countries of the Global South.


Electric mobility transitions in Bangladesh. My current research project is dedicated to the electrification of three-wheeled transport in Bangladesh, a process driven by the local assembly and operation of more than 1,5 million battery-powered rickshaws in the last decade. The case highlights the potentials and ambiguities of the unregulated, market-based adoption of electric vehicles. In my research, I focus on the interaction between the transport, electrotechnical and electric utility sectors and the role of intermediaries who operate across system boundaries and establish novel connections between them. Global history of technology. Together with my colleagues, I am exploring ways forward towards a more inclusive, plural, and transdisciplinary historical study of technology, especially in Non-Western world regions. This endeavor was at the core of my work as a postdoctoral researcher in the project A Global History of Technology, 1850-2000 at Darmstadt University of Technology between 2018 and 2022, and it will remain so at TU/e. Technology and the study of Central Asia. Most of my research in the past four years concentrated on Central Asia, a region that has barely received any attention in the history of technology yet. I am co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of the journal Central Asian Studies on Technology, Temporality and the Study of Central Asia. Based on archival and field research in Samarkand and Tashkent, Uzbekistan I published several works on the history of building, housing, and urban planning in the Uzbek SSR. Urban infrastructures in Africa. I have long-standing interest in urban infrastructure service provision in the Global South, especially (but not exclusively) in areas at the margins of outside the centralized networks. As a post-doc in the project Translating the Networked City: Adaptation and Creativity in Urban Infrastructures in Africa at Utrecht University I conducted research on electricity supply in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. History of electricity in Africa: I am currently working on the manuscript for my book Capital Grids: A Global History of Electricity in East Africa to be published with Palgrave Macmillan. The book is based on my dissertation project on the history of electricity in East Africa. This dissertation project, completed in 2017, was embedded in the interdisciplinary postgraduate program Microenergy Systems at the University of Technology in Berlin and the department of History of Technology at the University of Technology in Darmstadt. Microenergy Systems (MES): Between 2010 and 2017 I was part of the MES research group at Berlin where scholars from multiple discipline do mostly applied research on energy access in the Global South. Besides doing my PhD, one of my key fields of activity to synthesize the individual projects into cross-cutting perspectives. At the same time, I worked as consultant for the company Microenergy International and conducted projects for development agencies, microfinance institutions (who wanted to develop energy loan products), and manufacturers around the world.

Ancillary Activities

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