“Where nothing was before”: (re)producing population and place in Ghana's Volta River Project

Laura B. Johnson, Jordan P. Howell, Kyle T. Evered

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Significant infrastructural projects, and especially large hydroelectric dams, were envisioned and deployed by postcolonial governments to promote particular visions of industrialization, agriculture, democracy, and modernity. Newly independent states sought to annihilate formerly so-called backward and primitive landscapes and populations alike, promising to re-create both places and people as rational, economically productive entities. In this article, we re-examine such narratives as they related to Ghana's Volta River Project (VRP). Relying on archival and media sources between the 1950s and 1960s, we interrogate the Ghanaian state's pursuit of the VRP from a perspective rooted firmly in cultural geography and pay careful attention to the issues of population displacement/resettlement and landscape reconfiguration that permeated all dimensions of the project. We analyze the ways in which Ghanaian leaders used the VRP to translate a particular suite of cultural, economic, and political values into material reality, utilizing the techniques of displacement and population resettlement in efforts to enroll Ghana into a modern, global, industrial economic system. As such, this article augments the body of literature examining the modernist and state-building aspects of the VRP as well as studies critiquing the various processes of development that have unfolded in West Africa since the mid-twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-213
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cultural Geography
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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