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Migration networks and narratives in Ghana: a case study from the Zongo

  • Giulia Casentini

The historical presence of Zongo communities in contemporary Ghana is analysed through archival documents and ethnography, with the aim of highlighting their social and political value as migrant communities, and their possible inclusion in the urban strategy of the country. Zongos have been present in Ghana since precolonial and colonial times, depending on specific cases, and are historically connected to the presence of Muslim trade communities in the market areas of various urban settlements. I argue that their role in the Ghanaian socio-political landscape goes beyond this common definition: Zongos act as interlocutors between the urban centre and peripheral rural areas, and they have a potentially effective role in dealing with migrant flows. Zongo people elaborate their memory of migration in particular ways, revealing both an inherent mode of producing a common group identity, and a conscious strategy of inclusion in the contemporary political dynamics of Ghana.

Cet article analyse la présence historique de communautés zongo dans le Ghana contemporain à travers des documents d'archives et des données ethnographiques, dans le but de souligner leur valeur sociale et politique en tant que communautés migrantes, et leur inclusion possible dans la stratégie urbaine du pays. La présence des Zongo au Ghana remonte aux temps précoloniaux et coloniaux, selon le cas, et est liée historiquement à la celle des communautés commerçantes musulmanes des quartiers marchands de divers peuplements urbains. L'auteur soutient que le rôle des Zongo dans le paysage sociopolitique ghanéen va au-delà de cette définition courante : les Zongo servent d'interlocuteurs entre le centre urbain et la périphérie rurale, et ils jouent un rôle potentiellement efficace de gestion des flux migratoires. Les Zongo ont une façon particulière d’élaborer leur mémoire de migration, qui révèle à la fois un mode inhérent de production d'une identité de groupe commune et une stratégie consciente d'inclusion dans la dynamique politique contemporaine du Ghana.

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