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Accumulation by urban dispossession: struggles over urban space in Accra, Ghana

Gillespie, Thomas Anthony (2013) Accumulation by urban dispossession: struggles over urban space in Accra, Ghana. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Despite the growing recognition of the utility of Marxist theories of primitive accumulation for understanding the current ‘neoliberal’ phase of capitalist development, there is a lack of in-­‐depth research on the particular dynamics that ‘accumulation by dispossession’ assumes at the urban scale. This is a problem compounded by the lack of dialogue between Marxist theorists of primitive accumulation and critical urban geographers researching neoliberalism at the urban scale, particularly in the context of the Global South. This thesis addresses these shortcomings through an in-­‐depth empirical case study of struggles over urban space in Accra, Ghana. Situated within a critical urban theory approach, it draws on a range of qualitative data gathered during fieldwork to explore the actors, motives, mechanisms and struggles that lie behind accumulation by dispossession at the urban scale – or accumulation by urban dispossession -­‐ in Accra. This thesis argues that neoliberal structural adjustment has created a large ‘informal proletariat’ in Accra. This dispossessed surplus population has been expelled from the formal capitalist economy and therefore has to create ‘urban commons’ in order to reproduce itself outside of the capital relation. Since these commons place limits to capital’s ability to valorise the urban fabric, state-­‐led accumulation by urban dispossession is a strategic response that employs a range of physical-­‐legal and discursive mechanisms to overcome these limits through the gentrification of the urban environment, the enclosure of the urban commons, and the expulsion of the informal poor. The thesis also demonstrates how non-­‐state actors in Accra enact accumulation by urban dispossession through governmental technologies that reshape the subjectivities of informal settlement dwellers so as to enclose them within a market logic. Rather than being passive victims, however, this thesis argues that Accra’s informal proletariat actively contests accumulation by urban dispossession by creating and defending urban commons through a combination of everyday acts of ‘quiet encroachment’ and organised collective action.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
ISBN: 978-0-85731-625-7
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Geography (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.605297
Depositing User: Repository Administrator
Date Deposited: 06 May 2014 10:56
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2016 09:58
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5875

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