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Ghana Studies v.7 (2004) pp.25-42. MEMORIES OF PLACE AND BELONGING: IDENTITY, CITIZENSHIP, AND THE LEBANESE IN GHANA1 Emmanuel Akyeampong Harvard University Introduction he Lebanese diaspora extended to incorporate West Africa from the 1860s, and most West African coastal countries today have established Lebanese communities that are several generations old. Lebanese presence continues to attract fresh immigrants, creating a situation, for instance in Ghana, where there are Lebanese-Ghanaians, Lebanese permanent residents, Lebanese workers on work permits, and Lebanese tourists. In spite of their long presence in Ghana, Lebanese political incorporation remains problematic, and one would describe even Lebanese-Ghanaians as passive citizens and not active citizens.2 The exercise of citizenship, as Kwame Anthony Appiah points out in his recent study of identity, “requires the capacity to participate in the public discussion of polity,” and this requires a language of citizenship that is a political language.3 This paper draws on the burgeoning literature on diaspora and transnationalism as growing phenomena in a globalized world to address two key issues about Lebanese presence in Ghana.4 First, it seeks to unpack the ideological resistance to non-black citizenship in sub-Saharan Africa in general, and what makes the idea of a “white African” seem incongruous. Second, it uses the concepts of cosmopolitanism and flexible citizenship to advocate a reconceptualization of citizenship that transcends indigeneity and privileges residence.5 More centrally, I probe the question of the political loyalty of “foreigners” that lies at the heart of Ghanaian opposition to Lebanese political incorporation. Can cosmopolitans (‘citizens of the world’ and people with dual nationalities) be patriots?6 I explore this issue through the life histories of Lebanese Ghanaians and Lebanese residents in Ghana, and the place of Lebanon and Ghana in their affective memories. I examine the dynamics of Lebanese immigration from the colonial period, and how as a trading diaspora the production and reproduction of T EMMANUEL AKYEAMPONG 26 family businesses encouraged endogamy and forged a sense of the Lebanese as a separate community, a perception that still persists in Ghana. While fathers or heads of Lebanese business families planned the lives of their sons, nephews, and daughters with a degree of rigidity within the framework of corporate family economic well-being, individual Lebanese created their own identities as well, aligning themselves, sometimes, more with their place of residence than origin. I use the life histories of Lebanese-Ghanaians and Lebanese residents in Ghana to underscore how the memories of place and belonging7 can root them firmly in Ghana, despite affective ties to Lebanon. These life histories demonstrate how individual Lebanese constructed their own identities within the competing and complementary agendas of family identities and ambitions in the Lebanese diaspora. The paper is divided into five parts: an introduction, the conceptual or theoretical framework, a historical context for Lebanese presence in Ghana, life histories, and a conclusion. Cosmopolitanism and Flexible Citizenship In a book entitled Flexible Citizenship: the Cultural Logics of Transnationality (1999), Aihwa Ong through a case study of the Chinese diaspora argues that transnationalism does not signal the demise of the nation-state, but rather underscores the fluidity of capital and the tensions that exist between national and personal identities. She suggests the construction of flexible citizenship as a resolution to the multiple identities created in diaspora.8 Such a proposition would have been considered anathema in West Africa until the recent dispersion of West Africans and the emergence of new African immigrant communities in Europe and North America. Transnationalism has emerged as a survival strategy in Africa, and states are conceding the inevitability of this phenomenon. Indeed, Ghanaian transmigrants have become central to the political economy of Ghana, and Ghanaian remittances from abroad reached a staggering $1.9 billion in 2003, displacing gold and cocoa as the country’s leading sources of foreign exchange revenue.9 With an estimated 10-20 per cent of its population living abroad, the Ghanaian government organized a “homecoming summit” in Accra in July 2001 for Ghanaians abroad with the specific agenda of encouraging them to invest their capital and skills in Ghana’s economic development. Earlier that year, Ghana’s MEMORIES OF PLACE AND BELONGING 27 Ambassador to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2333-7168
Print ISSN
1536-5514
Pages
pp. 25-42
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-31
Open Access
No
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