Lauren Coyle

Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Award Information

2011 IDRF Program

AnthropologyUniversity of Chicago

Dual Sovereignties in the Golden Twilight: Law, Land, and Labor in Ghana

How does the colonial legacy of two parallel legal systems – one ostensibly customary, the other under the jurisdiction of the state – frame contemporary nationhood in Ghana, and, in particular, the often violent conflicts over property regimes that govern the ownership and extraction of resources in its neoliberal economy? How does that legacy register tensions and aspirations in postcolonial citizenship, sovereign government, environmental politics, and law in this African postcolony? I will address these questions through an ethnographic investigation in selected communities affected by large-scale surface-mining for gold in the heavily affected areas of Tarkwa, Kenyasi, and Obuasi. Each of these locations is undergoing profound transformations in kinship structures, modes of labor, and patterns of political authority amidst intensifying conflict and an apparent lack of political and legal redress – through traditional or state venues. I also will study the activities of relevant governmental bodies (principally, commissions and courts) and related civil society groups. In so doing, I aim to draw upon and contribute to seminal work on land and labor in Ghana; the larger literature on mining and social transformation in Africa; and the growing body of anthropological and social theoretical scholarship on the uneasy relationship between the legal/illegal and licit/illicit, particularly in postcolonial settings.