Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

On Cynicism: Activist and Artistic Responses to Corruption in Ghana

By Girish Daswani

Cite As:
Daswani, Girish. 2020. “On Cynicism: Activist and Artistic Responses to Corruption in Ghana”. Cultural Anthropology 35 (1):104–133.


By considering how Ghanaian activists and artists engage with different forms of cynicism in their attempts to fight corruption, this article reflects on two kinds of activist orientations: one located in future-oriented projects of political change, and another embracing contradiction by poking fun at the duplicity of politics. I argue that while the cynicism of other middle-class Ghanaians served as an important catalyst for activist action, it is important to look at cynicism and its politics from the perspective of Ghanaians who become disappointed and skeptical about change and artists who are concerned with embracing contradictions and making fun of the present through satire. By attending to the social actions and experiences that characterize these two groups, I ask what it means to take cynicism, and activism against and despite cynicism, as one’s ethnographic object.


Dis paper na about de two different way aluta and jolly-jolly people for Ghana dey show say dem “disappoint and lose hope” when dem dey fight magomago: one way na to struggle and believe say tomorrow go betta, and de oder way na to join yabis, abuse and comedy to fight wayo politics. My own argument here be say, even when e be true say many ordinary people for Ghana join aluta because dem don disappoint and lose hope for how magomago don spoil tings, e make big sense also to put eye for how aluta people for Ghana wey disappoint for sake of magomago come lose hope so tey dem no believe tings fit change for betta again and dose jolly-jolly people wey join yabis togeda with abuse now to fight magomago. When I put eye for dis two different way people dey behave when dem dey fight magomago, my plan na to show wetin dey happen when person wey don lose hope and disappoint come join aluta struggle with am to show how people dey behave.


cynicism; Ghana; corruption; activism; humor; somebody wey no born yestee; magomago; aluta; fool pass