Navigating Bodies, Borders and the Global Game: An Ethnography of Youth, Football and the Politics of Privation in Ghana, West Africa

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This dissertation explores the precarity and politics of youth as it intersects with the game of football in postcolonial Ghana. Departing from scholarly assertions of a ‘crisis’ of youth in its masculine guise, the study is predicated on the lived experiences of a male youth citizenry excluded from the prosperous narrative of Ghana’s neoliberal state, and unable to procure the basic means to work, wage and wedlock. Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in southern Ghana, I ask of how this generation of peripheral male youth construct the game of football vis-à-vis the precarious nature of their societal ‘becoming’, and their broader quest to live productively through the fractured, crisis-ridden exigencies of these neoliberal times.

Drawing on the metaphor-concept of the borderland, I proceed to argue that the game of football – both as a mediated form of global popular culture and a hegemonic masculine practice – has come to represent an alternative source of mobility and a most millenarian resolution to the ‘crisis’ of youth in its masculine and West African guise. I contend that the game now serves as a primary vehicle for utopian imaginaries of future amongst male youth in Ghana, where migration and the quest to ‘go outside’ have become fundamental features of a youth culture edging ever-further away from its former anchoring in Pan-African narratives. Ultimately, this project is an ethnography of the non-linear journeys that are enacted by male youth in their quest to become mobile out of Africa, and through their corporeal investment in the ‘global’ game.

Stretching from the impoverished hinterlands of Accra to the insulated rural confines of one of West Africa’s premier football academies, it is an ethnography which speaks to the virile forging of personal biography amidst postcolonial history – its foremost contribution being to illuminate the productive politics of youth, agency and mobility as they manifest on the margins of the modern world.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Toronto
  • Atkinson, Michael, Supervisor, External person
Award date10 Nov 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 10 Nov 2015


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