APAD: Development, Liberalism and Modernity. Trajectories for an Anthropology of Social Change location:Tervuren, Royal Museum of Central Africa date:13-15 December 2007
In mainstream development ideologies, a great deal of attention is paid to the evolution promised by the passage from past to future, or from “tradition” towards the “modern” (or from rural to urban, oral to written, gift to commodity,...). As already noted by Mudimbe (1988:4) this presupposed jump from one pole to the other is in fact misleading. In this paper, which deals with rural life in Northern Ghana, I will illustrate how the two temporalities inherent in the paradigms of tradition and modernity do not obliterate one another, but rather collide to construct a future for autochthonous worlds in which renewal and change are embedded in an ongoing continuity.
Starting from the example of young men’s and women’s movements between the village and the city, I will show how this increased mobility contributes to the reinterpretation of the meanings of village life. At first sight, the introduction of new mentalities and commodities seems to introduce a material and moral rupture with existing forms of rural living. In reality, however, people incorporate mental and material infrastructures in such a way that these actually sustain, rather than disrupt, autochthonous values and meanings.