Between the umbrella and the elephant: Elections, ethnic negotiations and the politics of spirit possession in TESHI, ACCRA

M. Venkatachalam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article focuses on a number of Ga spirit mediums located in Teshi, a neighbourhood of the Ghanaian capital, Accra. These individuals host foreign spirits from areas north of Ga territory, such as the modern Ashanti, Gonja and Dagomba regions. Such encounters of cross-cultural spirit possession have often been analysed in the scholarly literature as an embedded history of contact between peoples. These histories of ethnic or cultural contact - which inform cross-cultural spirit possession - are constantly re-imagined by spirit mediums and the broader community they service. How this re-imagination occurs, in conjunction with developments in the contemporary political and public spheres, is a theme that remains understudied. The perceived shifts in the contours of ethnic alliances and rivalries on a national scale, against the backdrop of modern Ghanaian party politics and the ever-changing relationships between the Ga and their northern neighbours, led to a thematic reconfiguration of possession practices in 2004. This ethnographic vignette details how spirit mediums were able to apply the ethnic and conceptual cultural divisions intrinsic to this corpus of ritual practice to a critique of national political events, producing a commentary, through possession, on the changing discourses on ethnicity and ethnic relations in the Ghanaian state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-268
Number of pages21
JournalAfrica
Volume81
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011

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