Week 3: Oxford Street, Accra

This week’s assigned readings were from Ato Quayson’s book Oxford Street, Accra. It begins by introducing Ghana as having one of the fastest-growing economies and in return, it is a very safe and sought after travel destination. The author’s focus on space is highlighted throughout the entire book as it is a look into the history of Oxford Street’s commercial district and how transnationalism and globalization have effected the representation of space and urban processes. “Any temptation to see Oxford Street as a postmodern transnational commercial boulevard is, however, quickly to be tempered by the many signs of cultural phenomena that reach back several generations” (Quayson, 2014, 12). This passage from Oxford Street, Accra depicts the overall feeling one has when they are on Oxford Street because among the transnational, commercialized enterprises, there are more complex elements that bring together cultural elements of writing, images, soundscape and performance. These are further demonstrated in chapters 4-6 of his novel with a focus on vehicular slogans, cell phone advertising, Salsa dancing and gymming.

In chapter 4, The Beautyful Ones, it attempts to understand the characteristics of Oxford Street in relation to how social media and technology is desired and represented in specific discursive environments. Vehicular slogans are a way that Quayson analyzed the collective transcript of responses to social transitions. The slogans were identified as mobile or stationary, depending on whether they were on permanent infrastructure, or vehicles such as tro tros and vendors. These slogans and inscriptions throughout the commercialized community are translations of the local culture onto the processes of globalization. Do you agree that they are translations of the local culture, or perhaps a way for the local community to reject further trends of globalization and transnationalism? Further in this chapter, the delocalization of these slogans is put into perspective when looking into the consumer-based campaigns to promote cell phone usage. Delocalizing the transnational interests of the community served as a benefit in the high rates of subscribers to cell phone companies. Do you think that the high rates of cell phone subscribers is a direct effect of globalization and delocalization of the transnational or simply as a step into modernity, and the age of technology?

The fifth chapter of Oxford Street, Accra, it is a struggle to find balance in Accra’s salsa scene between economic advancement with the hosting of a salsa, and the aspiration of feelings of community when participating in one. It demonstrates the many different interests of people that can clash in a culturally traditional practice. Vera Adu was passionate about salsa and loved the feeling she got from it and the sense of community that came with it. The economic benefits of hosting a salsa came from the mass amounts of people who came to watch, as well as socialize and buy drinks etc. However, the issue arose when venues wanted to start charging for entry and participation, and it was now a very commercialized event. Without the sense of community, the traditional salsa that was celebrated in Accra was altered, and people did not get the same feeling as they did before the economic interest.

Sources

Quayson, A. (2014) Oxford Street, Accra. United States: Duke University Press.

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