Rams Dagna

Scrap worlds in Ghana: assembling migrant livelihoods, metal markets and transnational interventions

Sous la direction de M. Goodale, Université de Lausanne


Between 2014 and 2015, I spent 8 months in Accra, Ghana. Through a series of chance encounters, I befriended the people behind the Slum Union of Ghana located in Old Fadama/Agbogbloshie, considered to be the biggest illegal settlement in the country. I initially studied party politics and grassroots human rights organisations in the slum. The fieldwork resulted in my MA thesis, which explored the political biographies and strategies of the slum dwellers as they fight against expulsions.

The slum is a host to two landfills: an e-waste - called “the biggest electronic dump in the world” (as per Greenpeace) and “one of the most polluted areas in the world” (as per the Blacksmith Institute) - and a plastic waste. For my PhD, I have extended my research to include questions of environmental degradation and global waste economies that are an important part of the slum’s life.

Research details:

My research traces the difficult emergence of environmental degradation as a political issue in Ghana and expulsions of people blamed for it as a preferred solution for the problem. I approach expulsions as a symptom of politics in the context of fiscal tightening, media and spectacle, land speculation, and pressures of international development agendas.

I am ultimately interested in how budgets work in government institutions and with what results for slum communities; how environment becomes a political concern; how waste economies function; how land is il-legalised and legalised, commodified and grabbed, and how all this back and forth affects the spaces of the urban poor in Ghana and African contexts more generally.