- The Projection and Performance of Ghanaian Nationhood
[End Page 181]
Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah have an enduring allure among Africanists, and for good reason. Ghana was the first European colony to win independence in sub-Saharan Africa, and Nkrumah was the first democratically elected leader of an independent decolonized nation. He was magnetic, cosmopolitan, and educated, but also thin-skinned and authoritarian. After blazing a trail for independence struggles around the continent and becoming a hub for exiles (Carpenter & Lawrance 2018) the world over, Ghana stumbled early in independence. Nkrumah was a remarkably charismatic leader and orator, and a prolific author and philosopher, with an almost cultic following, even today. He was also deeply flawed. An intolerant authoritarian, he cozied up to African demagogues (such as Guinea's Sekou Touré). He bullied, bribed, and cajoled British Togoland into a union with the Gold Coast (with British support) that many Togolanders did not seek in any form. And his liaisons with foreign-born women sat uncomfortably with many Ghanaians who yearned for a more "traditional" communitarian leader. Today Ghana has recaptured some of its erstwhile dynamism and global leadership, and the rehabilitation of Nkrumah's fraught legacy that began in the early 1980s under the presidency of J. J. Rawlings has continued apace since the foundation of the Fourth Republic in 1992. But Ghanaian disgruntlement about the uneven impact of neoliberalism, growing poverty, and the inequities of the delivery and distribution of resources, especially in parts of the north and the Volta region, continues to simmer.
In view of this ongoing reappraisal of Nkrumah's economic and political legacy within the Ghanaian public, the paucity of meaningful, scholarly, or critical appraisals of Nkrumah and the party he led, the Convention People's Party (CPP), is puzzling (see Bob-Milliar 2014). For critical appraisals of Ghanaian nationhood and nationalism more generally, the foundational texts surely include Dennis Austin's Politics in Ghana, Martin Staniland's Lions of Dagbon, Paul Ladoucear's Chief and Politicians, and Jean Allman's Quills of the Porcupine, among others. Notwithstanding these observations, there is much yet to be narrated in the projection and performance of Ghanaian nationhood, nationality, and national identity, particularly extending beyond Nkrumah's relatively brief suzerainty of sub-Saharan Africa's path-blazing democratic black-ruled republic. For this reason alone, the seven assembled works reviewed herein, encompassing historical and performance studies, speak to each other in terms of a collective focus on socioeconomics and cultural nationalism, offering a critical re-reading of the impact and legacy of Nkrumahist projections of statehood and statecraft across the colonial...