Quayson, Ato. "Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism."(Book review)

Author:Nti, Kwaku

Quayson, Ato. Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

Ever since Accra supplanted Cape Coast as the colonial capital of the Gold Coast [Ghana], its rise in popularity and expanse have hit dizzying heights. Ato Quayson's Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism joins several books already written on the subject. Accra, therefore, has arrived within the established scholastic domain of Urban Studies. In this significant work, Oxford Street, an unofficial term of reference, becomes a microcosm of the urban Accra macrocosm; a phenomenon decidedly remarkable for the less than two mile portion of the longer Cantonments Road. Making it all come together beautifully is Quayson's telling descriptive advantage and sense of humor. In the process, the author authoritatively proffers a convincing theoretical framework, amidst an ample touch of literary discourse, for the Accra urban narrative. Discussed within the conceptual framework of space, streetscape, performative, and spatial traversing, city life, or better still everyday life on Oxford Street, as it is for Accra, is seen as the product of the mutual insemination of the trajectories of transnationalism and local particularities. To this end, Quayson asserts "any temptation to see Oxford Street as a postmodern commercial boulevard ... must be quickly tempered by the many signs of cultural phenomena that reach back several generations some of which ... replicated in varying forms in different parts of the city and indeed across the country" (p. 12).

The seven stimulating chapters are divided into two major parts. The first focuses primarily on urban spatial evolution, the accretions of districts and neighborhoods, with these equally seen as the spatial aggregations of social forms; a dynamic that defines the dimensions of the Accra urbanity and also have implications for ethnicity and hybrid identities. The second constitutes an examination of the morphologies of everyday life with an array of cases such as ubiquitous and colorful public transport inscriptions, a focus on the youth with respect to salsa dancing and gym patronage, and a literary analysis of spatial traversal. Quayson highlights transnational and hybrid groups as well as national migrants central to overall Ga identity and urban formation with a significant impact on the social character of Accra that is largely obscured. The...

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