Ghana Billboard

Ghana billboard_tif322
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3 Essays

  1. Leslie Salzinger | Boston College says:

    Many of these pictures are both beautiful and thought provoking, but the Ghana Stock Exchange Billboard is irresistible, particularly set next to others: a bookstore advertising all manner of legal services posted on wooden slats; mass-produced “traditional” pottery; a man and child in traditional(?) costume walking barefoot in the city, grocery carton in hand. What’s so remarkable about globalization I think is not as much its reach as the dependable inconsistency of its effects. These incongruities are not new, but they have intensified in recent decades. Where one wonders are that man and child coming from, going to? Who chooses the patterns on that pottery? How many people who can’t read and write themselves need to have letters written, to truck in powers of attorney and affidavits, even as the rest of their lives are structured through old or emergent magical beliefs? The pictures don’t answer these questions, but they richly raise them.

    The stock exchange billboard takes all this to another level, since if anywhere in the rich countries we see an ongoing interaction with magical thinking, it is in the world of stocks and bonds, where individual lives are buffeted by forces beyond their control or comprehension. To see that purveyor of new luck and misfortune, standing against the scrubby dirt in Ghana, makes concrete in a way that no words can, the incongruous but nonetheless simultaneous schemas into which globalization has thrown us all.

  2. Michael Schwartz | Stony Brook University says:

    The irony of cultural imperialism. The clever comment that “you can tell the ideas of a nation by it’s advertisements” resonates with Americans, and conveys the flavor of self-criticism that characterizes American culture. But its ethnocentrism is reflected in the actual advertisements in the third world. In Ghana, “Own some shares today,” becomes an effort to deny the grinding poverty that makes it impossible for 95% of the population to even aspire to such ownership. In Guatemala, the advertisements for Orange Crush and Pepsi Cola reflect the empty calories, imported from America, that contribute to the desperation of an impoverished country.

    Only in America…do the advertisements reflect “the ideas of a nation.” In
    the Third World… the advertisements reflect the ideas of…America.

  3. Ania Sher | Stony Brook University says:

    The photos of Africa quite profoundly captured the absence of globalization’s impact on that continent. A shed takes the place of both a notary and a bookstore and piles of sturdy traditional pottery are piled up as small-scale production for a local market. I see in these images the periphery of global capitalism. The notary/bookstore captures the idea of a weak state combined with the high rates of illiteracy; one factor contributes to the other resulting in the absence of local social development. Given Africa’s poverty and stalled development, a surprising sign of globalization is a billboard for a stock exchange in Ghana. In a search to see what is being traded in Ghana, I found, of course, all the components of neoliberal development: a large scale privatization program initiated in the early 1990s, multinational oil companies operating there, timber, gold, and diamonds being the main export, as well as a complete liberalization of international trade.