Accepted paper:

Rambo-style urban management in Accra, Ghana and strategies for dealing with the threat of evictions


Dagna Rams (University of Lausanne)

Paper short abstract:

The paper will look at the politics of urban evictions in squatter communities in Ghana. I shall trace the political imageries that prop up the demolitions and I give special focus to the strategies of squatters to secure their place in the city.

Paper long abstract:

In 2015, President of Ghana John Mahama ordered a nationwide demolition of illegal structures such as homes built on others' land. The Mayor of Accra referred to one of the resultant demolitions as the "greatest decision since Independence". The literature on evictions places them front and centre of the current developments in urban governmentality (Ghertner) and neoliberal economy (Sassen). At the same time, there is a need to understand eviction in their specificity. What do evictions tell about changing land politics? What do they say about how financially-strapped state budgets work? What is their significance to those in power and their audiences? In as much as these are invasive urban measures, evictions and the threat thereof are also everyday realities that shape the lives of less privileged (often migrant) city-dwellers. How do people fight to inhabit a place for longer and push against the loom of evictions? How do they navigate what Appadurai points to as one of the great (legal and political) challenges of living in a slum: "the legalities of urban government and the illegal arrangements to which the poor almost always have to resort". Based on my 4 months of research in the biggest squatter community in Accra, my paper by pointing in the directions of the specificities of evictions in Accra suggests new and possible categories that are important for considering evictions: state budgets, media, urban environment.

panel P092
Contemporary politics of informality: encounters between the "formal" and "informal" African city