Categories Conferences
Location African Studies Association Annual Meeting
Date 2019

Rigid conceptions about “natural setting” of African traditional religion continue to shadow academic inquiries into the subject. When discussed in an urban context, it is usually labor migrants who string along pieces of their rural religious past, or Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches that capitalize on indigenous spirituality. Rather than a full-fledged constituent of urban existence, in this discourse traditional religion emerges as a residue of rural Africa preserved in poor and isolated enclaves (Matory 2000), or as a muddled copy of its rural counterparts. Seeking to challenge the notion that African traditional religion does not possess the same cosmopolitan qualities as Christianity or Islam due to the “locality” of its deities (Horton 1975), the paper re-contextualizes and re-conceptualizes the former as an urban phenomenon. To illustrate this point, it takes a close look at Ghana’s “original urbanites”, the Ga community in Accra, who have inhabited coastal frontiers when the city was still a small town. Utilizing historical and anthropological methods, including ethnographic data collected during 14 months of fieldwork conducted over the period of 5 years, the paper offers insight into how the Ga successfully negotiate their fair share of both secular and sacred space within the country’s sprawling capital.