- The Ghana Reader: History, Culture, Politics ed. by Kwasi Konadu, Clifford C. Campbell
Kwasi Konadu and Clifford Campbell have compiled an intriguingly diverse range of sources in this multi-disciplinary narrative of history, culture, and politics of Ghana. The book covers the peopling of the land, early state formation, contact with Europeans, colonial experiences, and the making of the modern nation. This unique packaging makes The Ghana Reader: History, Culture, Politics a signal example out of all the scholarly attempts to capture all aspects of Ghana’s milestones. The book is divided into six major parts, each of which is devoted to interesting overarching themes that are discussed from different perspectives to enhance understanding and proffer a profound appreciation of the complex nature of Ghana’s historical, cultural, and political account.
This work has a good number of strengths, which enhance its uniqueness. The several Akan traditions of migration [origin from the sky, caves, and holes], which have often been dismissed as mythical or at best mere cosmological blueprints for understanding the indigenous world, are rationalized and authenticated as formidable claims to autochthony with substantial archaeological evidence in the excerpt from the work of Kwaku Effah Gyamfi. What is more, this book incorporates current research and growing archaeological evidence that Ghana’s coastal and forest belts had long been settled before the initial contact with the Europeans, of whom the Portuguese were the first to arrive. Also discussed is the subsequent rivalry by various European powers for commercial dominance on the coast, which influenced indigenous politics. The authors proffer extensive insights into European activities as well as that of their local counterparts in the matter of evangelization, initial commodity trade, the slave trade, and the outcome of the [End Page 209] abolition of the slave trade.
There are excerpts that reify the historic reality that from the late seventeenth to late nineteenth centuries the Asante dominated the region only to lose that pride of place against a backdrop of British imperialism that served as the primary factor for significant European commercial and missionary presence, which shaped the contours of present-day Ghana in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And of course, like all over the world where new religions are introduced, Christianity in Ghana was tempered with local cultural influences as seen in the case of the people of Akuapem Akropong. In the contemporary era, proliferation of Pentecostal-charismatic churches face rigid competition for the hearts and souls of the faithful from indigenous and Islamic spiritualists. George Ekem Ferguson’s facilitation of British imperialism in the so-called Northern Territories is highlighted. In all of these issues, the authors point out that colonialism was not only a territorial occupation, but also a metaphorical “ideological occupation of the subjugated psyche” (p. 207). Instances of this syndrome are demonstrated in the lives of individuals exhibiting conflicted personalities and cutting strange caricatures of themselves in pursuit of out-of-place western ways of living.
Previously known as the Gold Coast, the enduring theme of gold in Ghana’s economy persisted before, during, and after the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The rush for gold in 1875 involved actors that cut across indigenous kings, chiefs, miners, women, children, farmers, western educated indigenous elite and a foreign component comprising the colonial engineers as well as speculators. In all of these categories labor was largely provided by free families and free [End Page 210] individuals. These revelations are made possible with the inclusion of an excerpt from Raymond Dumett, whose works on mining and Africa’s strategic minerals are insightful.
Without any reference to the very well-known Yaa Asantewa, this book introduces another interesting woman, Akyaawa Yikwan, in Asante diplomacy, albeit briefly. Her role was “an extraordinary invasion of a sphere that was in Asante all … male dominated” (p. 149). Similarly the work of Allman and Tashjian demonstrates how some Asante women challenged the meanings of marriage making and childbearing within the context of cocoa production and capitalism. Nor were women left out of the discussion of Kwame...