Accepted paper:

Of blood and water: flows, blockages and intimate hydro-sociality over the Volta River and Lake, Ghana

Authors:

Kirsty Wissing (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will consider Akwamu hydro-sociality with the Volta's water and Akosombo Dam. It will explore how the ritual flow of blood is used to assert intimacy between the Akwamu, their waterscape and their gods believed to control water that counter national claims of water as state-controlled.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will consider local Akwamu hydro-sociality with the Volta River and Lake as framed through blood. Specifically, it will consider how the ritual flow of blood is used to assert intimacy between the Akwamu, their waterscape and their gods believed to control water that counter national claims of water as state-controlled. I will explore how blood's flow, as ritually enacted by Akwamu authorities, was thought to induce water's flow in the midst of Ghana's hydro-energy crisis in 2015. My ethnographic case study is the Akosombo Dam as an intersection of national and local hydro-sociality. Constructed amidst post-independence fervour under President Kwame Nkrumah's leadership, this hydro-electric dam created Lake Volta and resulted in a mass government-led forced resettlement of 78,000 people that vastly altered local human relationships to their water environment.  The state-induced blockage of the Volta's water for hydro-energy, as well as increased internal migration for livelihood opportunities, have threatened to reshape local hydro-sociality as stipulated by the pre-dam Akwamu population. But water, as a somewhat inherently unpredictable material, can also undermine state-assertions of control. This paper will consider Akwamu interpretations of reduced rainfall to feed the Volta's waterways, which caused a national energy crisis, as a sign from their gods which in turn sought to shift the state of asserted water ownership. I will explore how blood's ritual flow was the medium through which to unblock intimate Akwamu hydro-social relations with their gods and waterscape, and how this countered hydro-social states of national governance over water.

panel P14
Hydroscapes and hydrosocial states: culture and the political ecology of water governance