2015 African Literature Association First Book Award
2013 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
African Video Movies and Global Desires is the first full-length scholarly study of Ghana’s commercial video industry, an industry that has produced thousands of movies over the last twenty years and has grown into an influential source of cultural production. Produced and consumed under circumstances of dire shortage and scarcity, African video movies narrate the desires and anxieties created by Africa’s incorporation into the global cultural economy.
Drawing on archival and ethnographic research conducted in Ghana over a ten-year period, as well as close readings of a number of individual movies, this book brings the insights of historical context as well as literary and film analysis to bear on a range of movies and the industry as a whole. Garritano makes a significant contribution to the examination of gender norms and the ideologies these movies produce.
African Video Movies and Global Desires is a historically and theoretically informed cultural history of an African visual genre that will only continue to grow in size and influence.
We see it all the time: organizations strive to persuade the public to change beliefs or behavior through expensive, expansive media campaigns. Designers painstakingly craft clear, resonant, and culturally sensitive messaging that will motivate people to buy a product, support a cause, vote for a candidate, or take active steps to improve their health. But once these campaigns leave the controlled environments of focus groups, advertising agencies, and stakeholder meetings to circulate, the public interprets and distorts the campaigns in ways their designers never intended or dreamed. In Best Laid Plans, Terence E. McDonnell explains why these attempts at mass persuasion often fail so badly.
McDonnell argues that these well-designed campaigns are undergoing “cultural entropy”: the process through which the intended meanings and uses of cultural objects fracture into alternative meanings, new practices, failed interactions, and blatant disregard. Using AIDS media campaigns in Accra, Ghana, as its central case study, the book walks readers through best-practice, evidence-based media campaigns that fall totally flat. Female condoms are turned into bracelets, AIDS posters become home decorations, red ribbons fade into pink under the sun—to name a few failures. These damaging cultural misfires are not random. Rather, McDonnell makes the case that these disruptions are patterned, widespread, and inevitable—indicative of a broader process of cultural entropy.
This study offers a “social interpretation of environmental process” for the coastal lowlands of southeastern Ghana. The Anlo-Ewe, sometimes hailed as the quintessential sea fishermen of the West African coast, are a previously non-maritime people who developed a maritime tradition. As a fishing community the Anlo have a strong attachment to their land. In the twentieth century coastal erosion has brought about a collapse of the balance between nature and culture. The Anlo have sought spiritual explanations but at the same time have responded politically by developing broader ties with Ewe-speaking peoples along the coast.
Brazilian-African Diaspora in Ghana is a fresh approach, challenging both pre-existing and established notions of the African Diaspora by engaging new regions, conceptualizations, and articulations that move the field forward. This book examines the untold story of freed slaves from Brazil who thrived socially, culturally, and economically despite the challenges they encountered after they settled in Ghana. Kwame Essien goes beyond the one-dimensional approach that only focuses on British abolitionists’ funding of freed slaves’ resettlements in Africa. The new interpretation of reverse migrations examines the paradox of freedom in discussing how emancipated Brazilian-Africans came under threat from British colonial officials who introduced stringent land ordinances that deprived the freed Brazilian- Africans from owning land, particularly “Brazilian land.” Essien considers anew contention between the returnees and other entities that were simultaneously vying for control over social, political, commercial, and religious spaces in Accra and tackles the fluidity of memory and how it continues to shape Ghana’s history. The ongoing search for lost connections with the support of the Brazilian government—inspiring multiple generations of Tabom (offspring of the returnees) to travel across the Atlantic and back, especially in the last decade—illustrates the unending nature of the transatlantic diaspora journey and its impacts.
The Cloth of Many Colored Silks collects a wide variety of scholarship dealing with Ghanaian history and society, including papers by Basil Davidson, Jean Allman, Esther Goody and Jack Goody, Sandra E. Greene, Polly Hill, Ray A. Kea, Peter Shinnie, Victoria B. Tashjian, Larry W. Yarak, Ralph A. Austen, Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias, Robert S. Kramer, Robert Launay, Donna J.E. Maier, R.S. O'Fahey, David Owusu-Ansah, and Enid Schildkrout.
Winner of the 2017 Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize
Winner of the 2016 American Historical Association’s Wesley-Logan Prize in African diaspora
Finalist for the 2016 Fage and Oliver Prize from the African Studies Association of the UK
Interracial sex mattered to the British colonial state in West Africa. In Crossing the Color Line, Carina E. Ray goes beyond this fact to reveal how Ghanaians shaped and defined these powerfully charged relations. The interplay between African and European perspectives and practices, argues Ray, transformed these relationships into key sites for consolidating colonial rule and for contesting its hierarchies of power. With rigorous methodology and innovative analyses, Ray brings Ghana and Britain into a single analytic frame to show how intimate relations between black men and white women in the metropole became deeply entangled with those between black women and white men in the colony in ways that were profoundly consequential.
Based on rich archival evidence and original interviews, the book moves across different registers, shifting from the micropolitics of individual disciplinary cases brought against colonial officers who “kept” local women to transatlantic networks of family, empire, and anticolonial resistance. In this way, Ray cuts to the heart of how interracial sex became a source of colonial anxiety and nationalist agitation during the first half of the twentieth century.
Shared signing communities consist of a relatively high number of hereditarily deaf people living together with hearing people in relative isolation. In the United States, Martha’s Vineyard gained mythical fame as a paradise for deaf people where everyone signed up until the 19th century. That community disappeared when deaf people left the island, newcomers moved in, married locals, and changed the gene pool. These unique communities still exist, however, one being the Akan village in Ghana called Adamorobe. Annelies Kusters, a deaf anthropologist, traveled to Adamorobe to conduct an ethnographic study of how deaf and hearing people live together in the village. In her new book, Kusters reveals how deaf people in Adamorobe did not live in a social paradise and how they created “deaf spaces” by seeking each other out.
Deaf Space in Adamorobe reveals one example of the considerable variation in shared signing communities regarding rates of sign language proficiency and use, deaf people’s marriage rates, deaf people’s participation in village economies and politics, and the role of deaf education. Kusters describes spaces produced by both deaf and hearing people as a cohesive community where living together is an integral fact of their sociocultural environments. At the same time, Kusters identifies tension points between deaf and hearing perspectives and also between outside perspectives and discourses that originated within the community. Because of these differences and the relatively high number of deaf people in the community, Kusters concludes it is natural that they form deaf spaces within the shared space of the village community.
In working to build a sense of nationhood, Ghana has focused on many social engineering projects, the most meaningful and fascinating of which has been the state's effort to create a national culture through its schools. As Cati Coe reveals in Dilemmas of Culture in African Schools, this effort has created an unusual paradox: while Ghana encourages its educators to teach about local cultural traditions, those traditions are transformed as they are taught in school classrooms. The state version of culture now taught by educators has become objectified and nationalized—vastly different from local traditions.
Coe identifies the state's limitations in teaching cultural knowledge and discusses how Ghanaians negotiate the tensions raised by the competing visions of modernity that nationalism and Christianity have created. She reveals how cultural curricula affect authority relations in local social organizations—between teachers and students, between Christians and national elite, and between children and elders—and raises several questions about educational processes, state-society relations, the production of knowledge, and the making of Ghana's citizenry.
The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed some of the greatest gold mining migrations in history when dreams of bonanza lured thousands of prospectors and diggers to the far corners of the earth—including the Gold Coast of West Africa.
El Dorado in West Africa explores the first modern gold rush of Ghana in all of its dimensions—land, labor, capital, traditional African mining, technology, transport, management, the clash of cultures, and colonial rule. The rich tapestry of events is crisscrossed by unexpected ironies and paradoxes.
Professor Dumett tells the story of the expatriate-led gold boom of 1875-1900 against the background of colonial capitalism. Through the use of oral data, he also brings to light the expansion of a parallel “African gold mining frontier,” which outpaced the expatriate mining sector.
African women, kings and chiefs, and the ordinary Akan farmer/miners, as well as European engineers and speculators, are the focal points of this study. It probes in depth the productive and developmental features and the turbulent and shattering effects of mining capitalism on African societies.
Engaging Modernity is the definitive history of Asante royal regalia and music ensembles. This second edition includes an ethnographical account of the 2014 Asanteman Grand Adae festival that prominently features the complex heritage of the visual and the performing arts in motion. Ampene’s contextual account illuminates the historical narratives the regalia objects render as they move through space and time, as well as the metalanguage embodied in the objects and the symbolic language they convey in Akanland. The book combines text with over three hundred color photographs to construct subtle and nuanced views of the material culture associated with Asante royal court in the twenty-first century. Engaging Modernity is an essential and a vast transdisciplinary resource for the humanities and beyond.
While living in West Africa in the 1970s, John Chernoff recorded the stories of "Hawa," a spirited and brilliant but uneducated woman whose insistence on being respected and treated fairly propelled her, ironically, into a life of marginality and luck as an "ashawo," or bar girl. Rejecting traditional marriage options and cut off from family support, she is like many women in Africa who come to depend on the help they receive from one another, from boyfriends, and from the men they meet in bars and nightclubs. Refusing to see herself as a victim, Hawa embraces the freedom her lifestyle permits and seeks the broadest experience available to her.
In Exchange Is Not Robbery and its predecessor, Hustling Is Not Stealing, a chronicle of exploitation is transformed by verbal art into an ebullient comedy. In Hustling Is Not Stealing, Hawa is a playful warrior struggling against circumstances in Ghana and Togo. In Exchange Is Not Robbery, Hawa returns to her native Burkina Faso, where she achieves greater control over her life but faces new difficulties. As a woman making sacrifices to live independently, Hawa sees her own situation become more complex as she confronts an atmosphere in Burkina Faso that is in some ways more challenging than the one she left behind, and the moral ambiguities of her life begin to intensify.
Combining elements of folklore and memoir, Hawa's stories portray the diverse social landscape of West Africa. Individually the anecdotes can be funny, shocking, or poignant; assembled together they offer a sweeping critical and satirical vision.
Forests of Gold is a collection of essays on the peoples of Ghana with particular reference to the most powerful of all their kingdoms: Asante. Beginning with the global and local conditions under which Akan society assumed its historic form between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, these essays go on to explore various aspects of Asante culture: conceptions of wealth, of time and motion, and the relationship between the unborn, the living, and the dead. The final section is focused upon individuals and includes studies of generals, of civil administrators, and of one remarkable woman who, in 1831, successfully negotiated peace treaties with the British and the Danes on the Gold Coast. The author argues that contemporary developments can only be fully understood against the background of long-term trajectories of change in Ghana.
Covering 500 years of Ghana's history, The Ghana Reader provides a multitude of historical, political, and cultural perspectives on this iconic African nation. Whether discussing the Asante kingdom and the Gold Coast's importance to European commerce and transatlantic slaving, Ghana's brief period under British colonial rule, or the emergence of its modern democracy, the volume's eighty selections emphasize Ghana's enormous symbolic and pragmatic value to global relations. They also demonstrate that the path to fully understanding Ghana requires acknowledging its ethnic and cultural diversity and listening to its population's varied voices. Readers will encounter selections written by everyone from farmers, traders, and the clergy to intellectuals, politicians, musicians, and foreign travelers. With sources including historical documents, poems, treaties, articles, and fiction, The Ghana Reader conveys the multiple and intersecting histories of Ghana's development as a nation, its key contribution to the formation of the African diaspora, and its increasingly important role in the economy and politics of the twenty-first century.
In History 4° Celsius Ian Baucom continues his inquiries into the place of the Black Atlantic in the making of the modern and postmodern world. Putting black studies into conversation with climate change, Baucom outlines how the ongoing concerns of critical race, diaspora, and postcolonial studies are crucial to understanding the Anthropocene. He draws on materialist and postmaterialist thought, Sartre, and the science of climate change to trace the ways in which evolving political, cultural, and natural history converge to shape a globally destructive force. Identifying the quest for limitless financial gain as the primary driving force behind both the slave trade and the continuing increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, Baucom demonstrates that climate change and the conditions of the Black Atlantic, colonialism, and the postcolony are fundamentally entwined. In so doing, he argues for the necessity of establishing a method of critical exchange between climate science, black studies, and the surrounding theoretical inquiries of humanism and posthumanism.
The prospects of a sixteen-year-old West African girl with no money, education, or experience might seem pretty depressing. But if she's got a hell of a lot of nerve and a knack for finding the funny side in even the worst situations, she just might triumph over her circumstances. Our heroine Hawa does, and she did. In the 1970s, John Chernoff recorded the story of her life as an "ashawo," or bar girl, making a living on gifts from men and her own quick wits, and here presents it in Hustling Is Not Stealing, one of the most remarkable "autobiographies" you will ever encounter.
What might have been a sad tale of hardship and exploitation turns instead into a fascinating send-up of life in modern Africa, thanks to Hawa's smarts, savvy, and ear for telling just the right story to make her point. Through her wide-open and knowing eyes, we get an inside view of what life is really like for young people in West Africa. We spy on nightlife scenes of sex and deception; we see how modern-minded youth deal with life in the cities in villages; and we share the sweet and sometimes silly friendships formed in the streets and bars.
But mostly we come to know Hawa and how she has navigated a life that few can even imagine. The first of two funny, poignant volumes, Hustling starts with an in-depth introduction by Chernoff to Hawa's Africa. From there the book traces her remarkable transformation from a playful warrior struggling against her circumstances to an insightful trickster enjoying and taking advantage of them as best she can.
Part coming-of-age story, part ethnography, and all compulsively readable, Hustling Is Not Stealing is a rare book that educates as thoroughly as it entertains.
"You can see some people outside, and you will think they are enjoying, but they are suffering. Every time in some nightclub, you will see a girl dressed nicely, and she's dancing, she's happy. You will say, 'Ah! This girl!' You don't know what problem she has got. Some people say that this life, it's unto us. It's unto us? Yeah, it's unto me, but sometimes it's not unto me. When I was growing up, I didn't feel like doing all these things. There is not any girl who will wake up as a young girl and say, 'As for me, when I grow up, I want to be ashawo, to go with everybody.' Not any girl will think of this."—from the book
Winner - 2004 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing
In this remarkable book, Steven Feld, pioneer of the anthropology of sound, listens to the vernacular cosmopolitanism of jazz players in Ghana. Some have traveled widely, played with American jazz greats, and blended the innovations of John Coltrane with local instruments and worldviews. Combining memoir, biography, ethnography, and history, Feld conveys a diasporic intimacy and dialogue that contests American nationalist and Afrocentric narratives of jazz history. His stories of Accra's jazz cosmopolitanism feature Ghanaba/Guy Warren (1923–2008), the eccentric drummer who befriended the likes of Charlie Parker, Max Roach, and Thelonious Monk in the United States in the 1950s, only to return, embittered, to Ghana, where he became the country's leading experimentalist. Others whose stories figure prominently are Nii Noi Nortey, who fuses the legacies of the black avant-gardes of the 1960s and 1970s with pan-African philosophy in sculptural shrines to Coltrane and musical improvisations inspired by his work; the percussionist Nii Otoo Annan, a traditional master inspired by Coltrane's drummers Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali; and a union of Accra truck and minibus drivers whose squeeze-bulb honk-horn music for drivers' funerals recalls the jazz funerals of New Orleans. Feld describes these artists' cosmopolitan outlook as an "acoustemology," a way of knowing the world through sound.
This book presents a broad analytical framework for the history of southeastern Ghana within the context of a representative study of one of the country’s most important political and economic forces.
The 150,000 Krobo are the most numerous of the Adangme-speaking peoples. They are located in the mountains just inland from the coast and are the fourth largest ethnic group in the country. During the nineteenth century they were one of the small states of the Gold Coast in the formative stages of political and cultural development. After the middle of the nineteenth century they became economically and politically one of the most important groups in the country because of their dominant role in commercial production of export crops.
Historical research on Ghana has produced mostly case studies of the large, centralized Akan states. Wilson’s study is an account of one of the smaller societies without which a history of Ghana would be incomplete.
The first African statesman to achieve world recognition was Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972), who became president of the new Republic of Ghana in 1960. He campaigned ceaselessly for African solidarity and for the liberation of southern Africa from white settler rule. His greatest achievement was to win the right of black peoples in Africa to have a vote and to determine their own destiny.
He turned a dream of liberation into a political reality. He was the leader of Ghana who urged Africa to shed the colonial yoke and who inspired black people everywhere to seek their freedom.
This revised edition of Birmingham’s fine and accessible biography chronicles the public accomplishments of this extraordinary leader, who faced some of the century’s most challenging political struggles over colonial transition. African nationalism, and pan-Africanism. It also relates some of the personal trials of a complex individual.
As a student in America in the late 1930s, Nkrumah, shy, disorganized, but ambitious and persistent, earned four degrees in ten years. For political training he then went to England. Nkrumah found writing difficult throughout his lifetime, but once back in his African homeland, with its oral heritage, Nkrumah blossomed as a charming conversationalist, a speechmaker, and eventually a visionary and inspiring leader.
Nkrumah’s crusades were controversial, however, and in the 1960s he gradually lost his heroic stature both among his own people and among his fellow leaders. He lived his last years in exile.
This remarkable life story, which touches on many of the issues facing modern Africa, will open a window of understanding for the general leader as well as for graduate and undergraduate classes.
In this new edition, Birmingham also examines Nkrumah’s exile and provides insight into the image of Nkrumah that has emerged in the light of research recently published.
Hiplife is a popular music genre in Ghana that mixes hip-hop beatmaking and rap with highlife music, proverbial speech, and Akan storytelling. In the 1990s, young Ghanaian musicians were drawn to hip-hop's dual ethos of black masculine empowerment and capitalist success. They made their underground sound mainstream by infusing carefree bravado with traditional respectful oratory and familiar Ghanaian rhythms. Living the Hiplife is an ethnographic account of hiplife in Ghana and its diaspora, based on extensive research among artists and audiences in Accra, Ghana's capital city; New York; and London. Jesse Weaver Shipley examines the production, consumption, and circulation of hiplife music, culture, and fashion in relation to broader cultural and political shifts in neoliberalizing Ghana.
Shipley shows how young hiplife musicians produce and transform different kinds of value—aesthetic, moral, linguistic, economic—using music to gain social status and wealth, and to become respectable public figures. In this entrepreneurial age, youth use celebrity as a form of currency, aligning music-making with self-making and aesthetic pleasure with business success. Registering both the globalization of electronic, digital media and the changing nature of African diasporic relations to Africa, hiplife links collective Pan-Africanist visions with individualist aspiration, highlighting the potential and limits of social mobility for African youth.
The author has also directed a film entitled Living the Hiplife and with two DJs produced mixtapes that feature the music in the book available for free download.
In the 1950s, Ghana, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party, drew the world’s attention as anticolonial activists, intellectuals, and politicians looked to it as a model for Africa’s postcolonial future. Nkrumah was a visionary, a statesman, and one of the key makers of contemporary Africa. In Living with Nkrumahism, Jeffrey S. Ahlman reexamines the infrastructure that organized and consolidated Nkrumah’s philosophy into a political program.
Ahlman draws on newly available source material to portray an organizational and cultural history of Nkrumahism. Taking us inside bureaucracies, offices, salary structures, and working routines, he painstakingly reconstructs the political and social milieu of the time and portrays a range of Ghanaians’ relationships to their country’s unique position in the decolonization process. Through fine attunement to the nuances of statecraft, he demonstrates how political and philosophical ideas shape lived experience.
Living with Nkrumahism stands at the crossroads of the rapidly growing fields of African decolonization, postcolonial history, and Cold War studies. It provides a much-needed scholarly model through which to reflect on the changing nature of citizenship and political and social participation in Africa and the broader postcolonial world.
In Market Encounters, Bianca Murillo explores the shifting social terrains that made the buying and selling of goods in modern Ghana possible. Fusing economic and business history with social and cultural history, she traces the evolution of consumerism in the colonial Gold Coast and independent Ghana from the late nineteenth century through to the political turmoil of the 1970s.
Murillo brings sales clerks, market women, and everyday consumers in Ghana to the center of a story that is all too often told in sweeping metanarratives about what happens when African businesses are incorporated into global markets. By emphasizing the centrality of human relationships to Ghana’s economic past, Murillo introduces a radical rethinking of consumption studies from an Africa-centered perspective. The result is a keen look at colonial capitalism in all of its intricacies, legacies, and contradictions, including its entanglement with gender and race.
In Neoliberal Frontiers, Brenda Chalfin presents an ethnographic examination of the day-to-day practices of the officials of Ghana’s Customs Service, exploring the impact of neoliberal restructuring and integration into the global economy on Ghanaian sovereignty. From the revealing vantage point of the Customs office, Chalfin discovers a fascinating inversion of our assumptions about neoliberal transformation: bureaucrats and local functionaries, government offices, checkpoints, and registries are typically held to be the targets of reform, but Chalfin finds that these figures and sites of authority act as the engine for changes in state sovereignty. Ghana has served as a model of reform for the neoliberal establishment, making it an ideal site for Chalfin to explore why the restructuring of a state on the global periphery portends shifts that occur in all corners of the world. At once a foray into international political economy, politics, and political anthropology, Neoliberal Frontiers is an innovative interdisciplinary leap forward for ethnographic writing, as well as an eloquent addition to the literature on postcolonial Africa.
In the last century, the tragic events of the Holocaust and the subsequent founding of the state of Israel brought about tremendous changes for Jewish communities all over the world. This book explores what may be the next watershed moment for the Jews: the inclusion of millions of people from developing nations who self-define as Jewish but who have no historical ties with established centers of Jewish life. These emerging groups are expanding notions of what it means to be Jewish.
This comparative ethnographic study, the first of its kind, presents in-depth analyses of the backgrounds, motivations, and sociohistorical contexts of emerging Jewish communities in Cameroon, Ghana, India, and other postcolonial locales. It investigates the ramifications of these new movements for the larger Judeo-Christian world, particularly with regard to issues of multiculturalism, immigration, race relations, and messianic expectations concerning the prophecy of Isaiah 11:12, according to which God will “assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
Kwame Nkrumah, who won independence for Ghana in 1957, was the first African statesman to achieve world recognition. Nkrumah and his movement also brought about the end of independent chieftaincy—one of the most fundamental changes in the history of Ghana.
Kwame Nkrumah's Convention Peoples' Party was committed not only to the rapid termination of British colonial rule but also to the elimination of chiefly power. This book is an account of Kwame Nkrumah and his government's long struggle to wrest administrative control of the Ghanaian countryside from the chiefs. Based largely upon previously unstudied documentation in Ghana, this study charts the government's frustrated attempts to democratize local government and the long and bitter campaigns mounted by many southern chiefs to resist their political marginalization.
Between 1951 and the creation of the First Republic in 1960, Ghanaian governments sought to discard the chiefly principle in local government, then to weaken chieftaincy by attrition and eventually, by altering the legal basis of chieftaincy, to incorporate and control a considerably altered chieftaincy. The book demonstrates that chieftaincy was consciously and systematically reconstructed in the decade of the 1950s with implications which can still be felt in modern Ghana.
In this study, which is statistically based on the 1960 Ghana population census, author Polly Hill attempts to show that economically motivated migration takes a much greater variety of occupational forms than is conventionally supposed. Hill reports on the occupations, geographical distribution, and urbanization of Ghana’s migrant population, and supplies notes on 34 migratory ethic groups.
In the most comprehensive analysis to date of the world of open air marketplaces of West Africa, Gracia Clark studies the market women of Kumasi, Ghana, in order to understand the key social forces that generate, maintain, and continually reshape the shifting market dynamics.
Probably the largest of its kind in West Africa, the Kumasi Central Market houses women whose positions vary from hawkers of meals and cheap manufactured goods to powerful wholesalers, who control the flow of important staples. Drawing on more than four years of field research, during which she worked alongside several influential market "Queens", Clark explains the economic, political, gender, and ethnic complexities involved in the operation of the marketplace and examines the resourcefulness of the market women in surviving the various hazards they routinely encounter, from coups d'etat to persistent sabotage of their positions from within.
Kofi Dᴐnkᴐ was a blacksmith and farmer, as well as an important healer, intellectual, spiritual leader, settler of disputes, and custodian of shared values for his Ghanaian community. In Our Own Way in This Part of the World Kwasi Konadu centers Dᴐnkᴐ's life story and experiences in a communography of Dᴐnkᴐ's community and nation from the late nineteenth century through the end of the twentieth, which were shaped by historical forces from colonial Ghana's cocoa boom to decolonization and political and religious parochialism. Although Dᴐnkᴐ touched the lives of thousands of citizens and patients, neither he nor they appear in national or international archives covering the region. Yet his memory persists in his intellectual and healing legacy, and the story of his community offers a non-national, decolonized example of social organization structured around spiritual forces that serves as a powerful reminder of the importance for scholars to take their cues from the lived experiences and ideas of the people they study.
What is the meaning of blackness in Africa? While much has been written on Africa’s complex ethnic and tribal relationships, Jemima Pierre’s groundbreaking The Predicament of Blackness is the first book to tackle the question of race in West Africa through its postcolonial manifestations. Challenging the view of the African continent as a nonracialized space—as a fixed historic source for the African diaspora—she envisions Africa, and in particular the nation of Ghana, as a place whose local relationships are deeply informed by global structures of race, economics, and politics.
Against the backdrop of Ghana’s history as a major port in the transatlantic slave trade and the subsequent and disruptive forces of colonialism and postcolonialism, Pierre examines key facets of contemporary Ghanaian society, from the pervasive significance of “whiteness” to the practice of chemical skin-bleaching to the government’s active promotion of Pan-African “heritage tourism.” Drawing these and other examples together, she shows that race and racism have not only persisted in Ghana after colonialism, but also that the beliefs and practices of this modern society all occur within a global racial hierarchy. In doing so, she provides a powerful articulation of race on the continent and a new way of understanding contemporary Africa—and the modern African diaspora.
Bearing the historic symbol of the Asante nation, the porcupine, the National Liberation Movement (NLM) stormed onto the Gold Coast’s political stage in 1954, mounting one of the first and most significant campaigns to decentralize political power in decolonizing Africa.
Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) was the first colony in sub-Saharan Africa to secure political independence from Britain. The struggle for full self-government was led by Kwame Nkrumah, the leading advocate of African nationalism and Pan-African unity in the post-World War II era. The NLM threatened the stability of Nkrumah’s preindependence government and destroyed prospects for a smooth transition to full self-rule. Though NLM demands for Asante autonomy mobilized thousands of members, marchers, and voters, the NLM was unable to forestall plans for a unitary government in a new nation. Under Nkrumah, Ghana became independent in 1957.
Marginalized politically by 1958, the NLM has at times been marginalized by scholars as well. Cast into the shadows of academic inquiry where history’s losers often dwell, the NLM came to be characterized as a tribalist ghost of the past whose foreordained defeat was worthy of some attention, but whose spectacular rise was not.
Today, when it is far harder to dismiss decentralizing movements and alternative nationalisms as things of the past, Jean Marie Allman’s brilliant The Quills of the Porcupine recovers the history of the NLM as a popular movement whose achievements and defeats were rooted in Asante’s history and in the social conflicts of the period. Allman draws skillfully on her extensive interviews with NLM activists, on a variety of published and archival sources in Ghana, and on British colonial records—many of them recently declassified—to provide rich narrative detail.
Sophisticated in its analysis of the NLM’s ideology and of the appeals of the movement to various strata within Asante society, The Quills of the Porcupine is a pioneering case study in the social history of African politics. An exciting story firmly situated within the context of the large theoretical and historical literature on class, ethnicity, and nationalism, its significance reaches far past the borders of Asante, and of Ghana.
Over the past fifteen years, visitors from the African diaspora have flocked to Cape Coast and Elmina, two towns in Ghana whose chief tourist attractions are the castles and dungeons where slaves were imprisoned before embarking for the New World. This desire to commemorate the Middle Passage contrasts sharply with the silence that normally cloaks the subject within Ghana. Why do Ghanaians suppress the history of enslavement? And why is this history expressed so differently on the other side of the Atlantic?
Routes of Remembrance tackles these questions by analyzing the slave trade’s absence from public versions of coastal Ghanaian family and community histories, its troubled presentation in the country’s classrooms and nationalist narratives, and its elaboration by the transnational tourism industry. Bayo Holsey discovers that in the past, African involvement in the slave trade was used by Europeans to denigrate local residents, and this stigma continues to shape the way Ghanaians imagine their historical past. Today, however, due to international attention and the curiosity of young Ghanaians, the slave trade has at last entered the public sphere, transforming it from a stigmatizing history to one that holds the potential to contest global inequalities.
Holsey’s study will be crucial to anyone involved in the global debate over how the slave trade endures in history and in memory.
Today’s unprecedented migration of people around the globe in search of work has had a widespread and troubling result: the separation of families. In The Scattered Family, Cati Coe offers a sophisticated examination of this phenomenon among Ghanaians living in Ghana and abroad. Challenging oversimplified concepts of globalization as a wholly unchecked force, she details the diverse and creative ways Ghanaian families have adapted long-standing familial practices to a contemporary, global setting.
Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, Coe uncovers a rich and dynamic set of familial concepts, habits, relationships, and expectations—what she calls repertoires—that have developed over time, through previous encounters with global capitalism. Separated immigrant families, she demonstrates, use these repertoires to help themselves navigate immigration law, the lack of child care, and a host of other problems, as well as to help raise children and maintain relationships the best way they know how. Examining this complex interplay between the local and global, Coe ultimately argues for a rethinking of what family itself means.
In Slavery and Reform in West Africa, Trevor Getz demonstrates that it was largely on the anvil of this issue that French and British policy in West Africa was forged. With distant metropoles unable to intervene in daily affairs, local European administrators, striving to balance abolitionist pressures against the resistance of politically and economically powerful local slave owners, sought ways to satisfy the latter while placating or duping the former.
The result was an alliance between colonial officials, company agents, and slave-owning elites that effectively slowed, sidetracked, or undermined serious attempts to reform slave holding. Although slavery was outlawed in both regions, in only a few isolated instances did large-scale emancipations occur. Under the surface, however, slaves used the threat of self-liberation to reach accommodations that transformed the master-slave relationship.
By comparing the strategies of colonial administrators, slave-owners, and slaves across these two regions and throughout the nineteenth century, Slavery and Reform in West Africa reveals not only the causes of the astounding success of slave owners, but also the factors that could, and in some cases did, lead to slave liberations. These findings have serious implications for the wider study of slavery and emancipation and for the history of Africa generally.
The first integrated history of the Ghana-Togo borderlands, Smugglers, Secessionists, and Loyal Citizens on the Ghana-Togo Frontier challenges the conventional wisdom that the current border is an arbitrary European construct, resisted by Ewe irredentism.
Paul Nugent contends that whatever the origins of partition, border peoples quickly became knowing and active participants in the shaping of this international boundary. The study itself straddles the conventional divide between social and political history and offers a reconstruction of a long-range history of smuggling and a reappraisal of Ewe identity.
Addressing topics such as imperialism, cocoa, the Customs Preventive Service, Christianity, and Ewe unification, this study will be of interest to scholars and to others concerned with issues of criminality, identity, and the state.
The fall of France in June 1940 left the Gold Coast surrounded by potentially hostile French colonies that had rejected de Gaulle's call to continue the fight, signaling instead their support for Marshall Pétain's pro-German Vichy regime.
In Soldiers, Airmen, Spies, and Whisperers, Nancy Lawler describes how the Gold Coast Regiment, denuded of battalions fighting in East Africa, was rapidly expanded at home to meet the threat of invasion. Professor Lawler also shows how the small airport at Takoradi was converted into a major Royal Air Force base and came to play a vital role in the supply of aircraft to the British Eighth Army in North Africa.
The importance of the Gold Coast to the Allied war effort necessitated the creation of elaborate propaganda and espionage networks, the activities of which ranged from rumor-mongering to smuggling and sabotage. The London-based Special Operations Executive moved into West Africa, where it worked closely with de Gaulle's Free French Intelligence. Lawler presents a vivid account of SOE's major triumph—masterminding the migration of a substantial part of the Gyaman people from Vichy Côte d'Ivoire to the Gold Coast.
As she looks at the plethora of military and civil organizations involved in the war, Lawler throws light on decision making in Brazzaville, London, and Washington. This is an account of World War II in one colony, but the story is firmly set within the wider context of a world at war.
Some babies and toddlers in parts of West Africa are considered spirit children—nonhumans sent from the forest to cause misfortune and destroy the family. These are usually deformed or ailing infants, or children whose births coincide with tragic events or who display unusual abilities. Aaron R. Denham offers a nuanced ethnographic study of this phenomenon in Northern Ghana that examines both the motivations of the families and the structural factors that lead to infanticide. He also turns the lens on the prevailing misunderstandings about this controversial practice. Denham offers vivid accounts of families’ life-and-death decisions that engage the complexity of the context, local meanings, and moral worlds of those confronting a spirit child.
This Side Jordan: A Novel
Margaret Laurence University of Chicago Press, 2011 Library of Congress PR9199.3.L33T48 2011 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Best known for her novels about the Canadian prairie, Margaret Laurence began her career writing about West Africa. Based on her experience living with her husband on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in the years just before independence, This Side Jordan confronts issues of race relations, sexism, and colonial exploitation.
This lyrical, vivid novel addresses all of the tensions of the time: the excitement, anticipation, and dread felt by both the Africans and the English as they confronted a new order. The book’s hero, a school teacher torn between duty to his tribe and aspirations for his country’s future in the modern world, names his son “Joshua” as a sign of hope that he will claim and enjoy his homeland. This Side Jordan anticipates many of the political and racial issues that were to plague Ghana over the next fifty years. Evocative and poignant, it is a subtle study of the effects of colonialism, culture clash, and the resilience of hope in new political identity.
“Highly recommended as a good and timely read.”—Library Journal
African cinema in the 1960s originated mainly from Francophone countries. It resembled the art cinema of contemporary Europe and relied on support from the French film industry and the French state. Beginning in 1969 the biennial Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou (FESPACO), held in Burkina Faso, became the major showcase for these films. But since the early 1990s, a new phenomenon has come to dominate the African cinema world: mass-marketed films shot on less expensive video cameras. These “Nollywood” films, so named because many originate in southern Nigeria, are a thriving industry dominating the world of African cinema.
Viewing African Cinema in the Twenty-first Century is the first book to bring together a set of essays offering a comparison of these two main African cinema modes.
Contributors: Ralph A. Austen and Mahir Şaul, Jonathan Haynes, Onookome Okome, Birgit Meyer, Abdalla Uba Adamu, Matthias Krings, Vincent Bouchard, Laura Fair, Jane Bryce, Peter Rist, Stefan Sereda, Lindsey Green-Simms, and Cornelius Moore