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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2013


The Accra–Kumasi road, one of Ghana's most important trunk roads, traverses numerous towns and settlements whose residents at times engage intimately with the road on their doorstep. In this article, I provide ethnographic insights into the ways in which roadside dwellers conceptualize – and spatialize – the road and its roadside through distinct repertoires of movement (performed and encountered), through localized storytelling and narratives, through self-reflection, and also through disruptive and vigilante actions. I describe the spatial practices that are at the core of the dwellers' ‘anthropological’ experience of the road and its roadside, a space that is continuously domesticated, appropriated and, thus, implicated in the mundane and everyday. The dwellers' everyday practices, as well as the exceptional performances oriented to the road, appear as closely intertwined both with the liveliness, socialities and opportunities the road affords, as well as with its dangers and potential for destruction and death. Thus the ‘ambivalent nature of road experiences’, in Masquelier's phrase – namely the experience of the road as a space of both perils and possibilities – is crucial to how roadside dwellers socially produce the Accra–Kumasi road.


La route qui relie Accra à Kumasi, l'un des grands axes du Ghana, traverse de nombreux peuplements et villes dont les résidents nouent parfois des liens intimes avec la route toute proche. Dans cet article, l'auteur apporte un éclairage ethnographique sur la manière dont les habitants des bords de route conceptualisent (et envisagent l'espace de) la route et ses bords à travers des répertoires distincts de mouvement (exécuté et rencontré), à travers des contes et des récits localisés, à travers l'introspection, mais aussi à travers l'indiscipline et le vigilantisme. Il décrit les pratiques spatiales qui sont au coeur de l'expérience « anthropologique » qu'ont les habitants de la route et du bord de route, un espace que ces habitants n'ont de cesse de domestiquer, de s'approprier et donc d'impliquer dans le prosaïque et le quotidien. Les pratiques quotidiennes des habitants, ainsi que les actes exceptionnels tournés vers la route, semblent étroitement liés à la vivacité, aux socialités et aux opportunités que procure la route, d'une part, ainsi qu'aux dangers et au potentiel de destruction et de mort, d'autre part. Par conséquent, la « nature ambivalente des expériences de la route » (suivant Masquelier), à savoir l'expérience de la route en tant qu'espace de dangers et de possibilités tout à la fois, est cruciale à la façon dont les habitants des bords de route produisent socialement la route qui relie Accra à Kumasi.

Research Article
Copyright © International African Institute 2013 

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