Client Dutch Association for the Study of Religion
Categories Conferences
Location Groningen, Netherlands
Date 2019
URL Launch Project

Constitutionally speaking, religious differences in contemporary Ghana have been negotiated along two distinct lines. The status of “religion” has been generously ascribed to Christianity and Islam, while various indigenous religions scattered throughout the country have been thrown into the category of “culture” or “custom.” The differentiation reflects evolutionary taxonomy of religions with Christianity at its pinnacle, a model which has been encoded in the version of secularism adopted by Ghana. Constitutional advantages accorded to Christianity and Islam as the country’s “religions” are obvious; benefits of being a “culture,” on the other hand, are far less apparent, especially owing to the depoliticizing and despiritualizing trends prominent throughout Ghanaian history. Looking at the state’s response to conflicts between Pentecostal/Charismatic churches and the Ga community in Accra following the former’s violation of the customary “ban on drumming and noise making” imposed prior to the annual Hɔmɔwɔ festival, this paper seeks to shed light on the few yet significant advantages of the “cultural” label, which enable the Ga traditional religion to percolate through the legislative restrictions applied to Ghana’s “religions.” More broadly, the paper demonstrates how selective use of the category of “religion” in the Ghanaian constitution and public discourse does not only reflect colonial and post-colonial hierarchization of indigenous and Western epistemologies, but also offers an opportunity for unofficial power sharing strategies developed between the Ghanaian state and the Ga traditional authorities, who according to the customary law, are the lawful guardians of Accra’s lands.