Akosombo Stories: The Vota River Project, Modernization, and Nationhood in Ghana

Stephan Miescher
UC Santa Barbara

Akosombo Stories examines Ghana’s most ambitious development project, the Volta River Project completed in 1966, and its importance for nation building. In Ghana, the name “Akosombo” has multiple meanings: the dam across the Volta, the Akosombo Township built as a model city, electrical power, cloth produced by the company Akosombo Textile Ltd., and the experience of migration and resettlement due to flooding.

Akosombo Stories, based on archival and oral research, explores the history of these different meanings and unpacks their cultural, social, and political implications. By exploring how the Akosombo Dam has become the metaphor for the legacy of modernization in Ghana, Akosombo Stories contributes to the debate about modernity in Africa. It engages with work about the role of development in decolonization and nationalism, particularly the technologies created by large-scale projects and their ecological consequences, in postcolonial Africa and elsewhere across the former colonized world. Looking at modernization from a humanities perspective is a departure from established scholarship. While social scientists have focused on the economic, social, and technical aspects of the Volta River Project, there is no cultural history that shows how ordinary Ghanaians have related the phenomenon of Akosombo to their understanding of development, modernity, and nationhood.