Established as the commercial and administrative capital of the Gold Coast Colony (now Ghana) in the late nineteenth century, the city of Accra experienced profound societal changes throughout the twentieth century. The Politics of Chieftaincy examines the disputes over authority and property during the peak decades of British colonial rule. Between 1920 and 1950, colonization, commercialization, and urbanization sparked and sharpened a range of controversies. The removal of chiefs from office, succession disputes, and litigation resulting from land alienation and urban development became commonplace. An intriguing dynamic unfolded as colonial rule intersected with grassroots politics: although chieftaincy disputes and litigation were powerful sites of conflict and disruption, they also became spaces for local people to negotiate the sociopolitical and economic changes of the period. Sackeyfio-Lenoch demonstrates how these disputes opened new arenas for Accra's residents to engage in dialogue about the efficacy of chieftaincy and the meaning of property and its alienation during colonial rule. Accra exerted dominance in the region by virtue of its location and status; its history provides us with an important case study for understanding urban and colonial processes in Africa during the first half of the twentieth century. Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch is Assistant Professor of African History at Dartmouth College.
Subjects: History, Political Science
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