Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Yale University
The West African Garden City: Kumasi in the Making of Global Urban Planning, 1874—1957

My dissertation illuminates entangled themes of colonial power, the built environment, and indigenous community-making in Kumasi, the capital of the West African Empire of Asante. My point of departure is the 1874 destruction of the capital city and defeat of the Asante Empire by a British military expedition. The invasion produced two significant outcomes for the city of Kumasi. The first was the spatial relocation of the Asante people from their symbolic and ritual boundaries to the periphery of the city. This violence forced the local people to endure a spatial disconnection that dramatically affected Asante culture, nationalism, and state security. However, the destruction of the city opened up a space for the generation of new ideas about spatiality and patriotism. Thus, even though Kumasi’s position as Asante’s traditional cultural center weakened, I hypothesize that Asante people creatively reimagined notions of community-making, legitimacy, and belonging during the rebuilding of the city. For the British colonial regime, the rupture of conquest meant an opportunity to reimagine the urban landscape of Kumasi within the patronizing ideologies that underpinned colonial rule in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, Kumasi soon became the testing grounds for the Garden City Movement, a global planning theory of the nineteenth century that was exported from the United Kingdom to locales in the British Empire. As the Asante people and British colonial regime reimagined the layouts and plans for the future of Kumasi, they tussled for control over the city’s landscape, especially the critical downtown area where the palace of the Asante was located. Thus, my dissertation will illuminate how the pageantry of local cultures intercepted with colonial power and the negotiations that ensued within the built environment of Kumasi. I am applying for the SSRC-IDRF to support the second phase of my archival and oral historical research in Ghana.