Contentious connections: infrastructure, dignity and collective life in Accra, Ghana

Pauline Destree*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Infrastructural systems have emerged as productive ethnographic sites for analysing political subjectivities and rationalities. Through the case of shared electricity and prepaid meters in the compound housing system of Accra, Ghana, I suggest that infrastructures’ political potential lies in their imaginative and hermeneutic abilities to foster desires for dignity, sustain wellbeing, and question moral ideals of collective life. In contrast to recent anthropological work that has emphasized the material basis of infrastructures as “techno-political” devices materializing certain logics of rule and governance, I reclaim a poetics of sociality through which infrastructures mobilize a politics of (unwanted) collective life. Through the “electricity stories” circulated by tenants, I chart the ways in which the moral economy of infrastructure in a context of collective precarity redistributes marginalization and freedom in ways that always exceed, if sometimes coinciding with, political rationales of energy reforms and policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-113
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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