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State of Slum

State of Slum

Paul Stacey



Home to eighty thousand people, Accra’s Old Fadama neighbourhood is the largest illegal slum in Ghana. Though almost all its inhabitants are Ghanaian born, their status as illegal ‘squatters’ means that they live a precarious existence, marginalised within Ghanaian society and denied many of the rights to which they are entitled as citizens.

The case of Old Fadama is far from unique. Across Africa, over half the population now lives in cities, and a lack of affordable housing means that growing numbers live in similar illegal slum communities, often in appalling conditions. Drawing on rich, ethnographic fieldwork, the book takes as its point of departure the narratives that emerge from the everyday lives and struggles of these people, using the perspective offered by Old Fadama as a means of identifying wider trends and dynamics across African slums.

Central to Stacey’s argument is the idea that such slums possess their own structures of governance, grounded in processes of negotiation between slum residents and external actors. In the process, Stacey transforms our understanding not only of slums, but of governance itself, moving us beyond prevailing state-centric approaches to consider how even a society’s most marginal members can play a key role in shaping and contesting state power.

Paul Stacey is a postdoctoral researcher in global development at the Institute for Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen. He has undertaken research projects for Oxfam America, the Danish Institute for International Studies, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is his first book.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover Cover
Title Page iii
Copyright iv
Dedication v
Contents vii
List of images ix
Acknowledgements xi
Introduction 1
Framing the study: the impromptu city 6
A brief outline of land law, government objectives and positions towards Old Fadama 9
Old Fadama: a political context of precariousness and uncertainty 17
Theoretical framework 20
Old Fadama as a case study 26
Conceptual and theoretical contributions 29
The wider context: urbanization and government dilemmas 38
Method considerations 41
Outline of the book 45
1: Origins and destinations 51
A brief history of north–south divides 51
Contemporary northern Ghana: poverty levels, inequalities and economic growth 54
Cultural and ethnic contentions 57
Old Fadama: a brief history of contentions and drivers 59
Old Fadama: general living conditions 62
The environmental context 64
Demography 66
Conclusion 67
2: Seeking shelter and freedom 71
Escaping social pressures and ethnic contentions 72
Freedom, ‘rightlessness’ and agency 74
Perceptions of government 78
To stay or to go? 79
George 81
Adjua 85
Conclusion 90
3: Gaining and losing land, and soft property 93
Old Fadama: some drivers of long-term settlement 98
School building 100
Hotel building 103
Clawing back control and loss of power 108
Yaw 108
The wall: boundary-making and new opportunities 113
Changing claims, rights and spatial disparities 119
Conclusion 122
4: Shifting yam and marketplace citizenship 125
Citizenship 129
Market organization and governance 130
Jemima 135
Pressure to move, promises to stay 136
Staying and going, and perceptions of difference 142
Conclusion 146
5: Solving problems and emerging authority 151
Local government reform and the de facto government in Old Fadama 155
OFADA organization, membership and representation 157
Public tasks and the provision of services 160
Waste management 162
Regulation of building and construction 164
Policing 166
Hybrid authority and new subjectivities 168
External dynamics of recognition 170
Conclusion 174
Conclusions and policy perspectives 177
SDG perspectives 179
Faith in formal planning 180
Power 182
Local rights and the rule of law 184
Policy perspective 187
Notes 191
References 197
Index 213