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Remains of the Future: Rethinking the Space and Time of Ruination through the Volta Resettlement Project, Ghana

By Thomas Yarrow

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Cite As:
Yarrow, Thomas. 2017. “Remains of the Future: Rethinking the Space and Time of Ruination through the Volta Resettlement Project, Ghana”. Cultural Anthropology 32 (4), 566-91. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca32.4.06.

Abstract

Focusing on a planned scheme of resettlement undertaken in Ghana in the wake of independence in 1957, this essay explores how midcentury plans for modernization exist in disjunctive relation to unrealized material infrastructures. Drawing on ethnographic research in resettlement townships, the account describes the contemporary afterlives of the plan, tracing how its promised futures shadow present understandings of contemporary and future life. The essay examines the distinctive form that ruination takes not as once-functional, now-decaying infrastructure, but as the ongoing effects of an unrealized plan. Here, experiences of ruination are associated with a set of spatial and temporal dynamics that emerge as the felt negation of linear time and Cartesian space. Insofar as the recent scholarly turn to ruins assumes the existence of modernization, it in fact eclipses what is conceptually at stake in situations where modernization exists only as a promise.

Keywords

modernization; resettlement; ruination; development; Ghana