My aim is twofold. Highlighting the value and importance of African archives in the construction of postcolonial African histories, I first reject what I call ‘postcolonial African archival pessimism’: the argument that postcolonial African archives are too disorganized or ill-kept to be of much, if any, value in configuring postcolonial African histories. Second, primarily through petition and complaint letters, I examine how Ghanaian workers protested racist and abusive workplace environments, government malfeasance, stagnating wages, and unfair dismissals in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. These archival gems illuminate how workers made claims to and performances of citizenship and reminded the state of their importance, politically and practically, to building the Ghanaian project. From Ghanaian and British archives, I seek to complement histories that highlight the centrality of African workers — through their letters and feet — in articulating the contradictions and aspirations of postcolonial African states.
You can follow him on Twitter @NanaOseiOpare
Comments Off on Prof. Nana Osei-Opare’s article, “If “‘If You Trouble a Hungry Snake, You Will Force It to Bite You’: Rethinking Postcolonial African Archival Pessimism, Worker Discontent, and Petition Writing in Ghana, 1957-66,” is now out on via the Journal of African History.
Osei-Opare’s article tells a new history of the Cold War, of Ghana’s early postcolonial foreign policy, and the formation of Ghana’s national identity through its diplomatic, economic, and migratory relationship with the USSR during Kwame Nkrumah’s government (1957–66). Through examining English and Russian sources from American, British, Ghanaian, and Russian archives, this article offers three arguments. First, by analyzing Soviet anxieties over its role in Ghanaian affairs, the article shows that Ghana significantly controlled the economic and diplomatic contours and pace of its relationship with the USSR. Second, that discourses of race and neocolonialism were more central to defining the terms of Ghana’s geopolitical positioning than the Cold War framework. Third, the virulent racism Ghanaians experienced in the United States and USSR helped forge a global Ghanaian national consciousness. The article illuminates an independent black state’s attempts to procure sovereignty against a white supremacist economic and political international order and calls for Cold War scholars to engage seriously with African archives alongside non-African ones to create more dynamic, representational historical accounts.
Carina Ray with Reggie Yates on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?
In a recent blog post for Oxford University Press, Carina Ray writes:
As an Africanist historian committed to reaching broader publics, I was thrilled when the research team for the BBC’s genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? contacted me late last February about an episode they were working on that involved the subject of some of my research, mixed race relationships in colonial Ghana. I was even more pleased when I realized that their questions about shifting practices and perceptions of intimate relationships between African women and European men in the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then known, were ones I had just explored in a newly published American Historical Review article, which I readily shared with them. This led to a month-long series of lengthy email exchanges, phone conversations, Skype chats, and eventually to an invitation to come to Ghana to shoot the Who Do You Think You Are? episode.