There has been a surge of scholarly interest in the Ghana of the 1950s and 1960s, under its charismatic independence era leader Kwame Nkrumah. These works tell a new story of that era, focusing on the possibilities of independence by looking anew at Pan-Africanism, socialism, new histories of the Cold War and Black internationalism (Alhman 2017; Getachew 2019; Iandolo 2022; Osei-Opare 2023).
In contrast, Ghana’s 1970s are often reduced to an afterthought. Military coups dominate the narrative. Indeed, the 1970s are a decade characterized by military rule, economic decline, emigration, and hardship (Hutchful 1979; Pellow & Chazan 1986). This hardship is reflected in the relative lack of scholarship on the period. The body of work that does exist tends to reinforce a top-down narrative, with a strong focus on the state. It is only after 1981, when J.J. Rawlings comes to power and stays, that Ghana again attracts significant scholarly interest (Herbst 1993; Nugent 1995; Brydon & Legge 1996).
Forty years on, it is high time to return to the 1970s. Inspired by the interest in the Nkrumah years, and motivated by the availability of new archives in Ghana and elsewhere, we invite historians to reconsider the 1970s with us. Building on recent scholarship that begins to probe the 1970s anew (Hart 2016; Murillo 2017; Wiemers 2021), we seek contributions that engage with the following questions:
● How might our understanding of this decade change if instead of focusing on disjuncture, we looked for continuity?
● How did this period of transition between two defining political regimes (between Nkrumah and Rawlings) shape contemporary Ghana?
● How did ordinary Ghanaians navigate this tumultuous decade? What does a focus on everyday lives, rather than a state-centric approach, reveal about these years?
● What new methods and sources might we turn to, to recover histories of a decade when state institutions supposedly collapsed?
● To what extent can the framing of “Ghana’s long 1970s” (1966–1981) help us reconsider the history of postcolonial Ghana?
We are particularly interested in contributions that de-center political narratives, but are open to a wide array of approaches. We welcome expressions of interest and further conversations regarding potential submissions (write to: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Abstracts (200 words) should be submitted to Claire Nicolas (email@example.com) and Elisa Prosperetti (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 1 April 2023.
Contributors will be notified by 15 April 2023.
Full papers (8000 words) are to be received by 15 September 2023.
All articles will undergo peer review. Those accepted for publication will appear in a special issue of Ghana Studies, scheduled for publication in 2024.
About Ghana Studies
Ghana Studies is the peer-reviewed journal of the Ghana Studies Association, an international affiliate of the African Studies Association (U.S). Its current editors are Victoria Ellen Smith (University of Bristol) and Nana Yaw Boampong Sapong (University of Ghana). Since its first issue in 1998, the journal has published significant work by leading scholars based in Ghana, the United States, Canada, and Europe. It is published annually by the University of Wisconsin Press.
About the editors of the special issue
Claire Nicolas is a Research Fellow from the Swiss National Science Foundation, at SOAS (University of London). She specializes in the history of sport, citizenship, and gender.
Elisa Prosperetti is an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She specializes in the history of education, development, and nation-building.
J. Alhman, Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan-Africanism in Ghana (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017).
L. Brydon and K. Legge, Adjusting Society: The World Bank, the IMF, and Ghana (London: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1996).
A. Getachew, Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).
J. Hart, “‘NIFA NIFA’: Technopolitics, Mobile Workers, and the Ambivalence of Decline in Acheampong’s Ghana,” African Economic History, 44 (2016): 181–201.
J. Herbst, The Politics of Reform in Ghana, 1982-1991 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
E. Hutchful, “A Tale of Two Regimes: Imperialism, the Military and Class in Ghana,” Review of African Political Economy 14 (1979): 36–55.
A. Iandolo, Arrested Development: The Soviet Union in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, 1955–1968 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2022).
B. Murillo, Market Encounters: Consumer Cultures in Twentieth-Century Ghana (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017).
P. Nugent, Big Men, Small Boys, and Politics in Ghana: Power, Ideology, and the Burden of History, 1982-1994 (London: Pinter, 1995).
N. Osei-Opare, “Ghana and Nkrumah Revisited: Lenin, State Capitalism, and Black Marxist Orbits,” Comparative Studies in Society and History (2023): 1-23.
D. Pellow and N. Chazan, Ghana: Coping with Uncertainty (Boulder: Westview Press, 1986).
A. Wiemers, Development and Rural Statecraft in Twentieth-Century Ghana (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2021).