Ghost Projects & Their Malcontents

Lecture format: on site + online.
Room: 2R-EG-07 (lecture hall of the Institute for Eastern European History).
Street address: Spitalgasse 2,  Campus of the University of Vienna, Hof 3.

This paper is from one of my book chapters that interrogates development schemes between Ghana and the Soviet Union—notably the Ghana Fishing Corporation, the Cotton Textile Factory, and the Soviet Geological Survey Team from 1957-1966. These engagements were supposed to embody Ghana's new postcolonial socialist modernity and highlight the benefits, opportunities, and possibilities of Soviet-partnership. However, these dreams never fully materialized due to a series of tactical blunders, mishaps, and fierce resistance from Ghanaians, whose livelihoods these projects negatively impacted. I argue that these projects exemplify phantom second-third world collaboration and the failure to bridge rhetoric with action. On the one hand, they represent and characterize failed Soviet developmental policy in Africa and, on the other, suspended dreams of decolonization. This paper also focuses on the relationships, expertise, livelihoods, and contestations of the technicians, bureaucrats, Soviet families, and local Ghanaian actors who were essential to overseeing the actual success of Ghana-Soviet relations in tangible ways for the Ghanaian people. 

Nana Osei-Opare is an Assistant Professor of African and Cold War History at Fordham University. He is working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Socialist De-Colony: Soviet & Black Entanglements in Ghana’s Decolonization and Cold War Projects. Socialist De-Colony is the first monograph to unpack, rethink, and tie Ghana’s Cold War and political-economic projects within larger socialist and Marxist debates from multiple ideological and geographic vantage points. During this adventure, the Soviet Union played the part of both an ideological and economic enabler and barometer of what could and might be. Consequently, Socialist De-Colony is the first monograph to study systematically how Ghana-Soviet relations influenced, enabled, and disrupted Ghana’s twin socialist and decolonization projects. The book’s title, “Socialist De-Colony,” underscores the reality that decolonization and the crafting of socialism were ongoing projects that were never complete, nor, perhaps, could they be. Osei-Opare has most recently published articles in The Journal of African History and The Journal of West African History. He has also published in popular media outlets such as The Washington Post and Foreign Policy.