‘Marketplace’ for papers/panelists

**If you have an idea for a panel for ‘Ghana as Center’ and want to put out a call for papers, we will post it here. Send an email to ghanastudies@gmail.com

**If you want to join a panel listed below, send an email directly  to the organizer of the panel.



Theorizing Zongos. Strangers and Their Communities in Ghana

[organized by Ann Cassiman and Benedikt Pontzen]

Throughout Ghanaian history, people have been on the move, travelling through vast networks of kin or moving into unfamiliar places. While those navigating webs of kinship have easily integrated, the ones moving to the unknown were frequently considered strangers by their hosts and directed to specific ‘stranger settlements’ – commonly known as zongos. Some have settled, others kept on moving, thus creating vast personal and communal networks that interconnect the zongos and their communities of origin in many ways. As such, zongos and their people participated in the making of Ghana as an imagined community by creating webs of relations on a national scale. On the other hand, zongos were also central to the imagining of the Ghanaian nation by being presented as its Other in official and popular discourses. The people of the zongo and their communities have been stereotypically considered as a homogeneous group of strangers, but the varied and changing relations with their hosts, their internal heterogeneity, and their constant mobility rather suggest complex dynamics that defy easy classification. On the one hand, the status of stranger may be put to productive usage as brokers or translators, opening up spaces and enabling action. On the other hand, this status entails high levels of vulnerability, constrains participation in the host societies, and frequently serves as means of exclusion. This results in ambivalent dynamics and constant re-negotiations of what it means to be considered a stranger in different settings.

How are these communities of strangers connected to each other, their hosts, and their places of origin? How can we (re-)think Ghanaian cities by including zongos into the picture? How do zongos partake in the making of the Ghanaian nation? Which role do actual movements play in this? What produces cohesion in the scattered and mobile lives of zongo communities? How do they avert or deal with inherent frailties? How are zongos innovative sites for the generation of skills, ideas, and knowledges? Can academics and others generate a theory ‘from the South’ grounded in theorizing the zongo, rethinking urban scholarship (on Ghana)? This panel seeks to address these questions based on empirical studies and aims at developing a better understanding of zongos, strangers and strangerhood in the Ghanaian setting.

Dr. Benedikt Pontzen
Center for Global Islamic Studies, Department of Religion, University of Florida

Dr. Ann Cassiman
Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA), Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Leuven

Send an abstract of your paper by email to Ann.Cassiman@kuleuven.be by 30 January.

Z-Paths Across the Atlantic: Ghana, the ‘Center’ of Transatlantic Slavery, Pan-Africanism and Reverse Migrations

This panel traces the location of Ghana in transatlantic history and memory. It examines Ghana’s role in slavery (domestic and transatlantic), Pan-Africanism and reverse migrations, particularly the ways in which Ghanaians and people of African origins identify and continue to create mutual ties to sustain their shared heritage. We welcome papers that explore how state institutions, profit/non-profit organizations, tourism entities and annual celebrations as PANAFEST and Emancipation Day facilitate or create enabling environment for forging ancestral, cultural, economic, social connections and re-union between Ghanaians and diasporans across the Atlantic.

Submissions about the significance of ancestral DNA testing in tracing lineage to the “motherland”—the search for African roots, as well as the role of diasporan celebrities and members of diasporan communities in Ghana in creating new awareness and attracting other diaspora returnees to participate in the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019”, marking the 400-year anniversary of the “Middle Passage” is also welcomed.

Please send 250-word abstract to Kwame Essien at kwame66essien@gmail.com by January 30.

Theorizing African Urban Studies
[organized by Ato Quayson]
What passes for theory in African Urban Studies is dominated predominantly by cases and examples from Western cities and critics.  Thus we find that thinkers like Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja, and Michel Foucault are the main theorists that are drawn upon whereas African cities tend to elude much of this theory.  Without necessarily debunking such theories, the question that needs to be asked urgently is what happens when we use African cities not as mere raw materials but as the very starting points for theorizing the urban.  What might focusing on traffic congestion in Lagos, lorry parks in Accra, food vending in Zanzibar and soup kitchens in Johannesburg do for how we theorize the African urban.  And in what ways does this theorizing help to illuminate the conditions of global South and global North cities?
We invite papers that focus on these and other questions.  Topics to be focused upon may include the following:
  • How are Western spatial theories to be revised for application to African cities?
  • What are the forms of spatial thinking available in African oral and philosophical discourses that might assist in thinking about the African urban?
  • What is space in relation to the configuration of modern and traditional spaces in African cities?
  • What might the differences between public spaces of assembly (lorry parks, train stations, football stadiums, etc.) and those of processual transversal (markets) contribute to a theory of urban space in Africa?
  • What is the relationship between politics and spatial relations?
  • How does the history of urban planning create particularly recalcitrant and enduring spatial logics for African cities?
Abstracts of no more than 300 words are to submitted, by 30 January, to Ato Quayson <aq10@nyu.edu>.

Drone Ecologies

[Organized by Joeva Rock (NYU)]

This panel explores critical ecologies and technologies in Ghana. The recent controversy over the government of Ghana’s partnership with Zipline International to supply blood via drone service reveals important tensions between the state, technology and public services. Drones, a controversial form technology often associated with military operations, have become ubiquitous in urban planning, agriculture and environmental conservation in Ghana. Drones also represent techno-scientific shortcuts to something better, futuristic and modern. Hopes of advancement vis-à-vis science and technology have been at the bedrock of Ghanaian development since independence. Today, science and technology are synonymous with development, although technological solutions often create new problems that require further techno-scientific “fixes.”

From oil and gas to agricultural modernization to development “hacks,” Ghana is widely considered a testing ground for development interventions, resource management and democratic reforms. From this experimental environment emerge contested technologies and ideologies that play out in boardrooms and laboratories, on farms and on the sea. We seek contemporary and historical explorations into the hopes, promises and disappointments of science and technologies as they relate to ecological issues in Ghana.

We welcome submissions from across the social sciences and humanities. If interested, please send a 250-word abstract by 30 January to Joeva Rock <Joeva.rock@nyu.edu>



Religion and Ghana: A Discursive Discourse

By all indications, Ghanaians are noted for their high levels of religiosity. As measured by the number of people who have an affiliation with a religious organization, see religion as important in their lives, or attend religious services on a regular basis, studies report that Ghanaians are among the most religious in the world.

The social, educational, and health aspects/dimensions of religion in Ghana have frequently been examined by scholars and professionals over the past couple of years. A few studies, for example, have looked at the political dimensions’ of religion—as regards the struggle for independence, and the early post-independent period. This is not the case with the post military era, a period that have seen the exponential growth of all things religion in the country.

The role of religion and its relevance to political developments, in contemporary Ghana, is one that is fiercely contested-especially in the news media. The debates are multifaceted and complex.  Unfortunately though, scholarly research on religion and its interface to some of the contemporary issues facing Ghanaians-especially in the public sphere-has received limited scholarly attention in the academy.  As recent incidents (such as the debate about prophetic pronouncements in Ghana) attest, there is the need to take a look at the growing influence of religion in “secular” Ghana.

Several broad themes will be considered in this session. I am interested in papers that deal with several aspects of religion in Ghana, with particular emphasis on religion and political discourse (public sphere) since the onset of the 4th Republic. Consideration will also be given to papers that examines gender and religion in contemporary Ghana. Other aspects of religion and contemporary society will be also given some attention—where possible.

Method of Presentation: Oral, poster, with power point if possible.

Professor Baffour K. Takyi
Sociology Department
University of Akron
Akron, OH 44325-1905

Deadline: Send email to btakyi@uakron.edu by 30 January 2019


City of Tema: Center of the World

While the harbor town of Tema geographically is the center of the world as it encompasses the Greenwich meridian and is the closest landmass to the equator passing Ghana in the ocean, as a planned urban space it also can be understood as central to Ghana’s historical modernization efforts and hence nation building.

In the words of Nkrumah at the official opening of the Tema Harbour, Tema “represents the purposeful beginning of the industrialisation of Ghana”. From the late 1950s to mid 1960s, Tema, true to intentions was both a symbol of and an experiment in modernity and modernisation. Furthermore, Tema was a global city interlinked with the global community through the siting of multinational companies, internal and international migration as well as the harbour which was a hub for West Africa. Paradoxically, the proximity to the capital Accra made Tema peripheral in certain ways and this was exacerbated by the downfall of industries and the decline of Nkrumah’s modernisation project.

What is Tema today and what are unique experiences of Tema like? Is it still central to Ghana, West Africa and the world? What are the contemporary (legacies of) expressions of modernity in Tema?

This session aims to discuss the centeredness of the town of Tema as part of a local and global network of ports and places, from both a historical and contemporary perspective – with a focus on lived experiences, urban planning, design, art and architecture, borders, boundaries, commerce, the state, and transnational entities.

This 90-minute session welcomes 5-minute flash presentations with up to 10 slides and will include a closing conversation making it a visual roundtable.

Chairs: Kajsa Hallberg Adu, Ashesi University; Kuukuwa Manful, SOAS University of London; DK Osseo-Asare, Penn State.

Please submit your flash presentation or a 250-word abstract by email to khadu@ashesi.edu.gh by 30 Jan


The Postcolonial University and the Chimera of Decoloniality

Critical University Studies [CUS], at least in terms nomenclature, is a relatively new field of inquiry, focused primarily on the US and the UK, and aimed at a critical examination of higher education.   Academic labor, student debt and the corporatization of the academy have been central themes.  CUS has been a broadly interdisciplinary field, drawing from cultural studies, as well as sociology, history, education, and philosophy.  Yet critical work on African universities, especially those with deep roots in colonial models of higher education on the continent, long predates the emergence of CUS.  Indeed, in many ways, debates in and around the University of Ghana in the 1950s and 1960s laid a foundation for Critical University Studies, focused especially on the vexed issues of decolonization and decoloniality, epistemology, knowledge production, academic freedom and gatekeeping.

This panel turns a critical lens onto higher education in Ghana – past, present, and future – as it welcomes exploration of a range of local/global themes (including, but not limited to):

  • Academic labor
  • Disciplinary knowledge
  • Gender and access
  • Decolonizing knowledge production
  • The work of African Studies
  • Fees and public education
  • Academic freedom
  • The privatization of higher education

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words, by 30 January. To Jean Allman:  jallman@wustl.edu.


Infrastructures Pasts & Futures

Organised by Pauline Destrée (UCL/St Andrews)

Roads, pipes, cables and wires: in recent years, infrastructure has emerged as a particularly fruitful domain to reassess the role of the state and notions of citizenship, the public good, and visions of development. As the vital networks that sustain the everyday working of urban life, infrastructures provide the foundations for a workable collective publics (Collier et al. 2016) but also reveal the vulnerabilities and fragilities of urban living, prone to breakdown, ruptures, and interruptions (Graham 2010). As political assemblages, they inspire promises of growth, prosperity and modernity (Anand, Gupta and Appel 2018), yet also nurture feelings of abandonment and resentment. This panel will explore these contradictory tendencies through ethnographic and historical explorations of infrastructure and the state in Ghana.

In Ghana, infrastructure has played a historic role in creating expectations of delivery, belonging and citizenship. Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of decolonisation and technological grandeur through the Akosombo Dam put Ghana at the centre of political and technological innovation on the continent. Today, off-grid solar power, waste-to-energy plants, and mobile-based apps for healthcare and agriculture are hailed as “leapfrogging” developments that bypass established patterns of dependencies and re-imagine an alternative infrastructural future. Meanwhile, new financial models for the operation and maintenance of infrastructures such as the rise of PPPs (public-private partnerships) prompt us to reconsider new configurations of the state and its historical mandate of delivery.

This panel welcomes papers that explore the legacies, presents and possible futures of infrastructure (conceived broadly as transport, energy, ICT, waste and water systems) in Ghana. Papers that address the changing role of the state through infrastructural projects are particularly welcome.

If interested, please send an abstract (250 words) to Pauline Destrée (pauline.destree.10@ucl.ac.uk) by January 30.