Week 3: African Urbanism – The Global City

Ato Quayson’s book ‘Oxford Street: Accra’ spoke to a number of themes including transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, westernization, as well as social relations within different classes and genders. Within the assigned chapters, Quayson spoke about capitalist products making their way into Ghana, such as imported cars and an increase in cell phones. Although the cars are imported and sport the symbol of their creation in another country, the people of Accra have used their personal symbols and slogans to decorate their tro-tros and make them their own. Within the advertisements that have been popping up along the Oxford Street strip, Quayson questions and criticizes their goals when seeing that the skin of the Africans in the ads have been lightened, appearing as a ‘hybrid’ of cultures as to appeal to a greater mass.

Quayson uses the examples of salsa and ‘gymming’ to speak to the everyday lives of the people living in Accra. I found this to be odd at first, but admire how instead of focusing on what a person does for a living in a work-sense; he focuses on what they do in their spare time and how that is a reflection of both their gender and economic statuses. He goes into detail about the history of salsa, how some believe it to have originated from African beats, and it’s journey to making it’s way back into Ghanian culture. ‘Gymming’, as Quayson puts it, is very different than ‘going to the gym’. ‘Gymming’ is a lifestyle choice of devotion to fitness and is not just a past-time activity. Because many of the gymmers are under- or unemployed, fitness is their way of breaking the cycle of boredom and gives their time meaning.

I find it interesting, however, that Quayson does not seem to take a stance or aim at proving a certain perspective. He remains highly objective to the material, which at some points makes it difficult to find the purpose of what he is saying, or if his purpose is to simply lay out his information, allowing the reader to create their own perspective. He uses examples that are not originally Ghanian, nor African for that matter – but expresses how the people of Ghana, specifically in Accra, have hybridized these cultural aspects, have put their own flair on them and incorporate them into their own culture.

Emily McManus 100674760


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