Week 3 Post: Urbanism: The Global City

The book Oxford Street: City Life and the itineraries of Transnationalism provide a very insightful look into the history and dynamics of Ghana, specifically “Oxford Street” which is one of Accra’s busiest streets. It is filled with shopping, people and urban development and has become known as one of the most globalized streets. Perspectives on this issue include insights from a philosophy, social theory and an economic background. Ato Quayson is one of Africa’s most prominent literary and cultural critics which were refreshing to be reading his work. Articles from last week especially along with many provided in Global Studies are written by Euro-Western scholars/anthropologists performing ethnographic research in Countries such as Ghana. I found that I was able to read these chapters much more impartially compared to other pieces on Ghana. He outlines a hopeful future of the urbanization of Western Africa.

A term used quite often within this book is African Urbanism. In the introduction Quayson wrote about the street in a geographical sense but also about spatial characteristics of Oxford Street specifically. An example he used was describing different meanings that viewing a sidewalk can bring. When discusses the implications of the sidewalk, he writes, “the first a signal of urban planning crisis and the second a signifier of local entrepreneurial drive.” The vibrant globalization of Accra has done well for the country but when uncovering the true implications which this has brought, is it similar to a revolution? He also discusses the importance and rise of fitness training as well as dancing. The cultural meaning behind dancing can differ greatly between races, culture, countries etc. but I think what Quayson is attempting to is allowing the reader to mend the gap between the West and Accra specifically. The higher class locals of Accra are the ones who are enjoying this type of experience which is easily relatable to places such as New York or Toronto. Though I understand that he is attempting to observe similarities but in hindsight everything is much different.

Reading his approaches on space and culture within Globalization were very interesting to me. His ethnographic method of approaching these issues of documenting and interacting with locals and stripping down the layers of African Urbanism was unique to readings that I have been exposed to in the past. It seemed to be a genuine firsthand experience and despite the certain times that it was obvious the book was made a for an educated Western reason, he did a good job at remaining impartial to Accra.

Discussion: Last week we talked about the involvement of Anthropologists, if this was a Western anthropologist author, would the book have the same impact? Or would it be seen as a tourist experience? Are his comparisons of dancing and fitness training in Chapter 4 essential to the central message of this book or just another way to “mend the gap”?

J Flood


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