Current Institutional Affiliation

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Yale University
Planting Trees, Tapping Ghanaians: Cultivating Rubber and Nationhood in Ghana, 1957 – Present

Shortly after Ghana achieved independence from Britain in 1957, Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah endorsed a development plan to launch a nationalized rubber industry in the Western Region. The socialist regime allocated generous funds and sweeping land concessions to establish state-run farms that would produce latex for manufacturing at a government-owned tire factory. But over the course of the next six decades, this agro-industrial enterprise, promoted initially in the name of national development, was sold to the American Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, then bought back by the Ghanaian government, and then sold again to the French Société Internationale de Plantation d'Hévéa. Ghanaians only began to benefit from the industry on their own terms in the 1990s, and today people in the Western Region have diverse perspectives of the industry and the brokers of political and economic power in Ghana. Thus, the rubber industry presents a particularly useful case to observe how people in rural areas have engaged with hegemonic institutions and resources – both natural and social – in dynamic ways throughout political and economic reforms during the post-colonial era. Using archival and oral historical methods in Ghana, England, and Ohio, I will investigate the ways that the rubber industry has impacted Ghana's environment, economy, and citizens, as well as the ways that Ghanaians have shaped the industry in turn. Moreover, this project will explore how people in the Western Region have reconceived their roles as citizens and subjects while attempting to stake claims to meaningful inclusion in political spaces and economic processes as Ghana has transitioned from socialist to neoliberal frameworks since independence in 1957. My dissertation will rework discourses of development by bringing to the fore tensions between economic growth and equality, constraints of political authority and sovereignty, and the incongruity of nation making and liberation.