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Title:Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, state, and pan-Africanism in Ghana
Author(s):Ahlman, Jeffrey S.
Director of Research:Allman, Jean M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Allman, Jean M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Brennan, James R.; Crummey, Donald E.; Ghamari-Tabrizi, Behrooz
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Kwame Nkrumah
Abstract:This dissertation explores the construction of the pan-Africanist and socialist discourse of Kwame Nkrumah’s government—Ghana’s first independent government—during the nation-building project of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, when Ghana became independent, the country’s transition to self-rule emerged as a watershed moment in African and world history as this small West African country challenged an international community rooted in the political and institutional framework of the territorial nation-state with a radical program of pan-African liberation and global socialist development. By 1958, the Nkrumah government’s commitment to this radical program had resulted in supra-territorial federations with Guinea-Conakry and later Mali, while, at home, Nkrumah and his Convention People’s Party (CPP) presented the nascent nation as a model for a new form of modern, disciplined, and continental citizenship. Based on eighteen months of oral and archival research in Ghana, this dissertation reconstructs the development and performance of Nkrumah’s program of pan-African liberation and socialist development in the Ghanaian public sphere. In doing so, it interrogates the role of pan-Africanism and global socialism in shaping a vision of a growing modern, disciplined, and socialist citizenry within the Nkrumahist state. Moreover, through an examination of the press, youth, women’s, and workers’ organizations, this dissertation traces how key groups of both “elite” and “ordinary” Ghanaians embedded aspects of Nkrumahist ideology into existing idioms of power, corruption, and progress in their communities as they sought to negotiate the increasingly volatile realities associated with life in postcolonial Africa. As a result, I argue that, through the institutional framework of Nkrumah-era pan-Africanist and socialist politics, an interactive debate developed within Nkrumah’s Ghana whereby an eclectic array of Ghanaian men and women came together to debate and contest their changing places, roles, and responsibilities in the postcolonial nation. Such an analysis, I contend, provides a framework for understanding decolonization and nation-building in Africa not as the elite program of political re-organization that most scholars have portrayed it as, but as part of a dynamic set of local and transnational imaginings and contestations aimed at addressing the challenges and inequities associated with Africa’s transition to self-rule.
Issue Date:2011-05-25
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Jeffrey S. Ahlman
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-25
Date Deposited:2011-05

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