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Subaltern strategies and development practice: urban water privatization in Ghana

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This paper is concerned with subaltern actions providing alternatives to development practice. I use Ghana's attempt at urban water privatization to illustrate that Ghana's development practice is characterized by a dependence on foreign sources of capital and expertise that illustrates a psyche and mindset of Eurocentrism associated with the elite and decisionmakers of the country. The rationale for water privatization, the how of privatization, and the anti-development opposition to privatization not only demonstrate this dependency but also the extent to which decisionmakers are willing to sacrifice sovereignty and culturally sensitive ways of doing things, to global capital, in exchange for development funds. In the state's zeal for Western or Occidental development, subalterns in Ghana have devised hybridities that are post-traditional and Oriental in nature to solve their water problems. These development solutions are couched within structures provided to human agency and suggest that development practice should therefore listen to subalterns in terms of how they imagine and solve their problems. The concern with subaltern voices shows the relationship between postcolonial studies and development practice.

Keywords: Eurocentrism; Ghana; development practice; post-traditional; postcolonial; subaltern; water privatization

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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