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Title: Small City, Global Scopes: An Ethnography of Urban Change in Techiman, Ghana
Authors: Lamote, Frederik
Issue Date: 14-Dec-2012
Abstract: Small City, Global Scopes - An Ethnography of Urban Change in Techiman, Ghana This dissertation is part of a larger research project initiated by Prof. Filip De Boeck, Prof. Ann Cassiman and Prof. Steven Van Wolleputte (IARA), and entitled: An Anthropology of Secondary cities in Africa: A Comparative Analysis. Based upon the literature on urbanisation in Sub-Saharan Africa and on multisided and long term fieldwork, it presents an ethnographic study of urban change in a small, or “secondary”, city in West-Africa. The dissertation describes the urban development of Techiman, a small city in central Ghana. The subsequent chapters unravel the complex whole of past and present, visible and invisible, (trans)local and (trans)national worlds, infrastructures, connections and processes that is continuously (re)shaping and (re)defining Techiman’s urbanity. By scrutinizing how processes of religious, political and economical change in a small, historical city are embedded in the history of the town and entangled in processes of globalization and urbanization, this work flies in the face of the perception that small African cities are unconnected and merely powerless towns which have nothing to add to urban theory. After an introductory chapter, which sketches the analytical framework of this thesis and situates the work in the growing body of literature on urbanization in Africa, the dissertation starts off by describing how the past echoes through Techiman’s urban space and influences the daily life in Techiman. The chapter elaborates upon the relation between urbanization and history writing and telling. It describes how the past continues to resonate throughout the urban space and influences the urban life in contemporary Techiman. As such, the chapter scrutinize how the past structures the political, religious and social life in/of the city. Chapter three approaches Techiman from a political point of view. The chapter zooms in on the political developments of the Techiman-Bono kingdom. The chapter analyzes the longue duréé of an ethno-political conflict with the Asante about the ownership of nine contested villages. It describes how a military and religious conflict evolved into a legal issue that is hotly contended in the Ghanaian High Court and exists along the fault lines of the British colonial policies and the emerging democracy in Ghana. Chapter four elaborates upon the intimate relations between religious change on the one hand and the urbanization and globalization of Techiman on the other hand. It describes how the visible and invisible worlds are interconnected and mutually influence each other by analysing the interaction between the growth of the urban space and the corresponding shift and changes in the religious landscape of Techiman. A diachronic point of view is adopted in order to make manifest how these interrelations are articulated into urban space at different points in time. Chapter five starts from the longing for wealth andsuccess of the contemporary Techiman residents on the one hand, and the related fear for money rituals on the other hand to approach the interplay between economic development, urbanization, and the emergence of urban imaginaries. The chapter explains how a nation wide wave of money rituals is incorporated in the particular prayer economy of Techiman and leads to the resurrection of much older money rituals. It links the proliferation and transformations of these rituals to the emergence of new urban imaginaries invoked by the fast urbanization and globalization of Techiman. The concluding epilogue builds on the conclusions of the previous chapters and illustrates how Techiman’s multiplex urbanity is produced within the indivisible intersection between (1) the material realty generated by a developing economy and shaped by interpretations of modernity and tradition; (2) the imaginary world configured by translocal and transnational flows of spirits, images, people and capital; (3) the oral infrastructure constructed out of homespun historiographies, moralities, political discourses and rumors; and, (4) a spiritual world which reflects all these worlds with one overarching world and which mediates between the worlds. It is within this intersection that Techiman exists, develops and grows into the world-at-large. From within this complex and perhaps rather elusive intersection, Techiman generates an alternative form of urbanity, that is shaped by different processes, that is enacted on different levels than in large African cities and that generates networks with global scopes.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Field of Study Social and Community Work
Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa

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