History and Public History in Ghana

Geschichte und Public History in Ghana

Abstract:
This article examines the situation of public history in Ghana. It takes an integrated approach by discussing the intersections between history, public history, and school history. Using cultural-historical practices in Ghana, Western representations of African history, and recent developments in Ghana as its premises, this article underscores how the level of historical awareness among the Ghanaian public is a great tool for the potential development, systematic conceptualization, and practice of public history in Ghana.
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18122
Languages: English, German


Today, representations of the past that extend beyond the academic context have gained currency in many countries. Public history in Ghana is at an embryonic stage with a dearth of public history researchers and the absence of public history themes in the curricula of many universities. Misplaced public perceptions of history have been central to the rather lethargic pace of the development of history scholarship in Ghana. Recent developments in Ghana and its attendant public reactions highlight the potential for public history to thrive in the country. 

The State of History and Public History

Historically, the academic study of history has been an embattled field in intellectual discourses in Africa. Even though Ghanaians are generally interested in the past and in the current achievements of their nation, as well as in its political and socio-economic organisation, and in the cultural heritage of Ghana and its people, no consistent attempt has been made to promote the study of history. Public history is somehow diffused into academic history as there is no forthright focus on the area. Research on public representations of the past in the present is scarce. This situation could be understood from the difficulties surrounding African history and historiography — cultural-historical practices in indigenous Ghanaian society and in Western intellectual discourses on African historiography.

Tradition vs. Western Approaches

As with academic history, two main factors account for the lack of clear focus on public history.  The greatest, perhaps, is the lack of “formal”[1] methods of documenting our past in earlier times. Traditionally established ways of conveying information about the past to the present included oral accounts, paintings and drawings, drum music and local festivals.[2] The absence of the art of “writing” among indigenous populations meant that every household and local community was responsible for ensuring that critical information of historical significance was passed on to the younger generation. Consequently, average Ghanaians possessed some basic knowledge about important developments in their nation’s past. At present, great portions of the history of traditional Ghanaian communities remain unwritten and are still transmitted via oral traditions, with events following European contact attracting most attention in academic research. The absence of written records resulted in the parochial documentation of Ghana’s past by foreign authors.[3] Such records, however, were largely rejected as inaccurately represented the culture and traditions of Ghana. This development, coupled with the unpopular Hegelian and Trevor-Roperian dialectic, which sought to dismiss Africa’s history and rationality and to portray Africa as a historically dark continent,[4][5] impacted how traditional African populations approached and appreciated their pasts. This in turn affected public confidence in written history and the study of history generally.

Not a Preserve for Historians Alone

Large sections of the Ghanaian public could, without political or ethnic prejudice, identify distortions and misrepresentations in their nation’s history regardless of who authored them, as history is an everyday lived reality in traditional and modern societies in Ghana. Recent research shows that collective memory and public interpretation of past events contribute to determining which events are significant for historical investigation.[6] Boadu reports that societal memory structures such as oral histories or traditional customs, public celebrations, and recent occurrences are essential means of preserving significant past events and making them available for historical study.[7] Further, the general discontent with which some sections of the Ghanaian public approached misrepresentations of some political and ethnic groups in some recently published history textbooks[8] demonstrates the active state of awareness and interest of the public toward their own pasts. Ghana’s history is therefore woven into the fabric of Ghanaian culture and public identity and is therefore not a preserve for historians alone.

Unprofitable Venture

History undoubtedly plays an important role as a means by which Ghana comes to terms with its past, reconciles its colonial experiences and heritage, and finds its place in the modern world. Traditional approaches to history and its confrontations with westernised accounts about Ghana have intensified public historical consciousness. Yet, it is puzzling that this general public concern for Ghana’s past is not translated into positive attitudes toward historical scholarship. The Ghanaian public generally regard the teaching and learning of history as an unprofitable venture.

History scholars, students, and teachers are often not taken seriously as a result of the perceived unattractiveness of the discipline. The brightest brains are drawn away from history into disciplines which are perceived to be more economically viable. Journalists and media houses report how some historians are financially handicapped.[9] Funding for historical research is nearly non-existent and universities are struggling with enrolments in history. Governments have focused on STEM subjects to the neglect of the humanities in general.

Disregard for History

The scope of education reforms in Ghana since the second half of the twentieth century demonstrates the unsympathetic attitude of governments and education policy makers toward history. The current government has attempted to revive interest in school history through curriculum reforms that introduced history in primary schools in 2019; but this effort has paradoxically disoriented public perceptions and reactions to the history of Ghana. From blatant attempts to elevate their close relatives to the coalface of Ghana’s history to the recent unsupervised publication and leakage of history textbooks containing fictionalized accounts and distorted facts, which were met with massive public uproar,[10] the government has contributed to further depleting public confidence in the merit of studying history. Consequently, history remains largely at the feet of the public, which interprets and responds to the nation’s past based on its diverse ethnical and political orientations and celebrates it as a pastime for its contribution to the development of cultural and national identity. It does not, however, appreciate it as a worthwhile academic enterprise. Dwarko argues that the situation of public disregard for academic history contributes to the ailing nature of school history.[11]

From the Streets to the Classroom

The effect of the negative public perceptions of academic history is that students fail to appreciate the value and relevance of studying history. History enrolments fall below other subjects and students are often made to feel inferior about their choice of subject. Some are even ashamed to publicly declare that they are studying history. Limited government support for school history is evidenced by scant teaching resources, insufficient opportunities for teachers to pursue professional development, and an overloaded curriculum with a rather heavy focus on ancient civilisations at the expense of relatable local histories. Within this context, many history teachers resort to grand narratives in their classrooms, thus obscuring students’ understanding and appreciation of history.[12] History graduates cannot find jobs aside from teaching. Even so, history teachers are not respected and history classrooms risk being empty in the future. School history is therefore pummeled on every side by obstructive public perceptions and attitudes as well as insensitive governments and education policy formulations.

Public History in Public Spaces

Perhaps the most conspicuous representation of public history in Ghana is the slave castles. Initially, these served as trading posts for gold, but later became major ports that were used by English merchants to facilitate the forced migration of Africans to the Americas. These slave monuments have become enduring public emblems of the atrocious event of slavery, which often bruise old wounds of anger and resentment amongst Ghanaians. A recent celebration of the Year of Return in 2019 to mark the 400th year since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in America attracted hundreds of thousands of descendants of the African diaspora to Ghana to reconnect to their roots, history, and tradition. Slave tourism, a key feature of the Year of Return project, provided opportunities for tourists to visit slave castles and slave dungeons where their ancestors were kept before their final voyage to America through the “Door of No Return.” The sense of cultural connection that was felt by tourists as they listened to accounts of their enslaved African forebears in the pitch-dark punishment cells and slave dungeons at Cape Coast and Elmina castles presented opportunities for reflection and re-interpretation of the Slave Trade.[13] Within Ghana and the African diaspora, the Year of Return and the reenactment of the history of slavery re-ignited public conversations about difficult pasts and highlighted the importance of attachment to our cultural and historical heritage. For many diasporeans, memory of the Slave Trade triggered sorrow, anger, and a feeling of “never again.” One African-American tourist, Roxanne Caleb, is quoted as saying; “I wasn’t prepared for this. I’m heartbroken. My mind still can’t wrap around the fact that a human being can treat another worse than a rat.[14] For several locals, recalling the atrocities meted out to the slaves and touring the slave edifice offered a healing remedy. The Year of Return therefore renewed public consciousness of historical trauma and the transgenerational effects of such traumatic events as slavery on present generations.

Figure 1: Cape Coast Castle

Figure 2: The Door of no Return at Cape Coast Slave Castle, Ghana

Conclusion

History permeates public life in Ghana and shapes the fabric of traditional and modern society; yet, at present, public history is not an active research area in Ghana, as a result of factors such as poor public perceptions and lack of government support for history. Recent developments point to a potential for success; but any success on this front would require significant public attitudinal change toward history-related disciplines and major government and stakeholder investment. While public awareness of local histories looks positive, such historical consciousness could be interpreted to highlight the underlying historical perspective that public history research furnishes.

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Further Reading

  • Boadu, Gideon. “Historical Significance and the Challenges of African Historiography: Analysis of Teacher Perspectives.” Pedagogy, Culture & Society (2020), 10.1080/14681366.2020.1843070.
  • Dwarko, D. A. “History – Our Ailing Subject: The Need for Revival in the 21st Century.” In Challenges of Education in Ghana in the 21st Century, edited by D. E. K. Amenumey, 167-78. Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 2007.

Web Resources

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[1] ‘Formal’ is used here to denote a Western-type documentation. Traditional practices were formal within their own right and context.
[2] Fynn, J. K., R. Addo-Fenning, and J. Anquandah. History for Secondary Schools. Accra, Ghana: Ministry of Education, 1991.
[3] Reindorf, C. C. History of the Gold Coast and Asante: Based on Traditions and Historical Facts, Comprising a Period of More Than Three Centuries from About 1500 to 1860. Basel: Basel Press, 1895.
[4] Hegel, G. W. F. Philosophy of History. New York: Dover Press, 1956.
[5] Trevor-Roper, H. The Rise of Christian Europe. London: Thames & Hudson, 1965.
[6] Boadu, G. “Historical Significance and the Challenges of African Historiography: Analysis of Teacher Perspectives.” Pedagogy, Culture & Society  (2020).
[7] Ibid.
[8] Kyere, N. A. Akufo-Addo supervising over distortion of Ghana’s history – Edem Agbana (2021). Retrieved from https://3news.com/akufo-addo-supervising-over-distortion-of-ghanas-history-edem-agbana/ (last accessed 16 March 2021).
[9] Amoh, E. K. Prof Adu Boahen “was broke as a historian’”(2017). Retrieved from https://3news.com/prof-adu-boahen-was-broke-as-a-historian/ (last accessed 16 March 2021).
[10] Kyere, N. A. Akufo-Addo supervising over distortion of Ghana’s history – Edem Agbana (2021).  Retrieved from https://3news.com/akufo-addo-supervising-over-distortion-of-ghanas-history-edem-agbana/ (last accessed 16 March 2021).
[11] Dwarko, D. A. “History – Our Ailing Subject: The Need for Revival in the 21st Century.” In Challenges of Education in Ghana in the 21st Century, edited by D. E. K. Amenumey, 167–78. Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 2007.
[12] Boadu, G., D. Donnelly, and H. Sharp. “History Teachers’ Pedagogical Reasoning and the Dynamics of Classroom Implementation in Ghana.” History Education Research Journal 17, no. 2 (2020): 179–94.
[13] Morrison, A. The “Year of Return” and the unintended consequences for Ghanaians (2020). Retrieved from https://ksr.hkspublications.org/2020/01/29/the-year-of-return-and-the-unintended-consequences-for-ghanaians/ (last accessed 16 March 2021).
[14] AFP. Ghana draws African-American tourists with “Year of Return” (2019). Retrieved from https://www.news24.com/news24/travel/watch-ghana-draws-african-american-tourists-with-year-of-return-20190822 (last accessed 16 March 2021).

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Image Credits

Fort São Jorge da Mina © 2002 Photo RNW.org CC BY-ND 2.0 via flickr.

Fig 1: Cape Coast Slave Castle © 2004 Julius Cruickshank CC-BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Fig 2: Cape Coast Castle Door of No Return © 2012 sixthofdecember  CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Recommended Citation

Boadu, Giden: History and Public History in Ghana. In: Public History Weekly 9 (2021) 3, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18122.

Editorial Responsibility

Marko Demantowsky

Der Fokus auf Darstellungen der Vergangenheit in der Gegenwart jenseits des akademischen Kontexts hat in vielen Ländern an Aktualität gewonnen. Die öffentliche Geschichte in Ghana befindet sich in einem embryonalen Stadium, der gekennzeichnet ist von einem Mangel an Public Historians und dem Fehlen von Public-History-Themen in den Lehrplänen vieler Universitäten. Eine deplatzierte öffentliche Wahrnehmung von Geschichte hat bei der eher schleppenden Entwicklung der Geschichtswissenschaft in Ghana eine zentrale Rolle gespielt. Die jüngsten Entwicklungen im Land und die damit verbundenen öffentlichen Reaktionen zeigen jedoch, dass Public History durchaus das Potential hat in Ghana zu gedeihen.

Der Zustand von Geschichte und Public History

Historisch gesehen ist das akademische Studium der Geschichte ein umkämpftes Feld in den intellektuellen Diskursen in Afrika. Obwohl die Ghanaer im Allgemeinen an den vergangenen und aktuellen Errungenschaften ihrer Nation, der politischen und sozioökonomischen Organisation und dem kulturellen Erbe Ghanas und seiner Menschen interessiert sind, hat es keinen konsequenten Versuch gegeben, die Geschichtswissenschaft zu fördern. Public History ist irgendwie in die akademische Geschichte diffundiert, da es keinen eindeutigen Fokus auf das Gebiet gibt. Dazu mangelt es an Forscher:innen, die sich mit der öffentlichen Repräsentation der Vergangenheit in der Gegenwart beschäftigen. Diese Situation könnte im Kontext der Schwierigkeiten verstanden werden, die die afrikanische Geschichte und Geschichtsschreibung umgeben: kulturhistorische Praktiken in der indigenen ghanaischen Gesellschaft stehen westliche intellektuelle Diskurse zur Afrika-Geschichtsschreibung gegenüber.

Tradition vs. westliche Zugänge

Wie bei der Geschichte als Disziplin gibt es zwei Hauptfaktoren für das Fehlen eines klaren Fokus auf Public History, wobei der grösste vielleicht das Fehlen von “formalen”[1] Methoden zur Dokumentation unserer Vergangenheit in früheren Zeiten ist. Traditionell etablierte Wege, Informationen über die Vergangenheit in die Gegenwart zu transportieren, waren Medien wie mündliche Berichte, Gemälde und Zeichnungen, Trommelmusik und lokale Feste.[2] Das Fehlen der “Schreibkunst” unter der indigenen Bevölkerung bedeutete, dass jeder Haushalt und jede lokale Gemeinschaft die Verantwortung hatte, sicherzustellen, dass kritische Informationen von historischer Bedeutung an die jüngere Generation weitergegeben wurden. Das Ergebnis war, dass die durchschnittlichen Ghanaer ein gewisses Grundwissen über wichtige Entwicklungen in der Vergangenheit ihres Landes besassen.

Gegenwärtig sind grosse Teile der Geschichte der traditionellen ghanaischen Gemeinschaften ungeschrieben und werden immer noch durch mündliche Überlieferungen weitergegeben, wobei die Ereignisse nach dem Kontakt mit Europa die meiste Aufmerksamkeit in der Geschichtswissenschaft auf sich ziehen. Das Fehlen schriftlicher Aufzeichnungen führte dazu, dass ausländische Autor:innen die ghanaische Vergangenheit dokumentierten,[3] was jedoch weitgehend als ungenaue Darstellung der ghanaischen Kultur und Traditionen abgelehnt wurde. Diese Entwicklung, gepaart mit der unpopulären Hegelianischen und Trevor-Roperianischen Dialektik, die versuchte, Afrikas Geschichte und Rationalität abzutun und Afrika als einen historisch dunklen Kontinent darzustellen,[4][5] wirkte sich auf die Art und Weise aus, wie die allgemeine traditionelle afrikanische Bevölkerung sich ihrer Vergangenheit näherte und sie wertschätzte. Dies wiederum beeinträchtigte das öffentliche Vertrauen in die geschriebene Geschichte und die Auseinandersetzung mit Geschichte im Allgemeinen.

Nicht nur Historiker:innen vorbehalten

Weite Teile der ghanaischen Öffentlichkeit könnten, ohne politische oder ethnische Vorurteile, Verzerrungen und Falschdarstellungen in der Geschichte ihres Landes identifizieren, unabhängig davon, wer sie verfasst hat, da Geschichte eine alltägliche gelebte Realität in traditionellen und modernen Gesellschaften in Ghana ist. Neuere Forschungen zeigen, dass das kollektive Gedächtnis und die öffentliche Interpretation vergangener Ereignisse dazu beitragen, jene Ereignisse zu bestimmen, die für historische Untersuchungen bedeutsam sind. [6]  Boadu hat gezeigt, dass gesellschaftliche Gedächtnisstrukturen wie mündliche Überlieferungen oder traditionelle Bräuche, öffentliche Feiern und aktuelle Ereignisse wesentliche Mittel sind, um bedeutsame Ereignisse der Vergangenheit zu bewahren und für historische Untersuchungen zugänglich zu machen. [7]

Darüber hinaus zeigt die allgemeine Unzufriedenheit, mit der einige Teile der ghanaischen Öffentlichkeit falsche Darstellungen einiger politischer und ethnischer Gruppen in einigen kürzlich veröffentlichten Geschichtslehrbüchern[8] angegangen sind, wie aktiv das öffentliche Bewusstsein und Interesse für die eigene Vergangenheit ist. Ghanas Geschichte ist also in das Gefüge der ghanaischen Kultur und der öffentlichen Identität eingewoben und ist daher nicht nur Historiker:innen vorbehalten.

Unrentables Unterfangen

Geschichte spielt zweifelsohne eine wichtige Rolle als Mittel, mit dem Ghana seine Vergangenheit aufarbeitet, seine kolonialen Erfahrungen und sein Erbe verarbeitet und seinen Platz in der modernen Welt findet. Traditionelle Zugänge zur Geschichte und ihre Konfrontation mit westlich geprägten Darstellungen über Ghana haben das öffentliche Geschichtsbewusstsein gestärkt. Dennoch bleibt es rätselhaft, dass sich dieses allgemeine öffentliche Interesse an der ghanaischen Vergangenheit nicht in eine positive Einstellung gegenüber der Geschichtswissenschaft überträgt. Die ghanaische Öffentlichkeit betrachtet das Lehren und Lernen von Geschichte im Allgemeinen als ein unprofitables Unterfangen.

Geschichtswissenschaftler:innen, Student:innen und Lehrer:innen werden oft nicht ernst genommen, weil das Fach als unattraktiv empfunden wird. Die klügsten Köpfe werden von der Geschichte weg in Disziplinen gelockt, die als wirtschaftlich rentabler wahrgenommen werden. Journalisten und Medienhäuser berichten, wie manche Historiker:innen finanziell gehandicapt sind. Es gibt so gut wie keine Mittel für die historische Forschung, und die Universitäten haben mit mangelnden Anmeldungen im Fach Geschichte zu kämpfen. Eine Reihe von ghanaische Regierungen hat sich auf MINT-Fächer konzentriert und dabei die Geisteswissenschaften im Allgemeinen vernachlässigt.

Missachtung der Geschichte

Der Tragweite der Bildungsreformen in Ghana seit der zweiten Hälfte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts zeigen die verständnislose Haltung von Regierungen und Bildungspolitiker:innen gegenüber der Geschichte. Die derzeitige Regierung hat zwar versucht, das Interesse am Geschichtsunterricht durch Lehrplanreformen wiederzubeleben, die das Fach Geschichte an den Grundschulen im Jahr 2019 eingeführt haben; aber diese Bemühungen haben paradoxerweise die öffentliche Wahrnehmung und Reaktionen auf die Geschichte Ghanas desorientiert. Von eklatanten Versuchen, ihre nahen Verwandten an die Spitze der Geschichte Ghanas zu erheben, bis hin zur jüngsten unkontrollierten Veröffentlichung und Durchsickern von Geschichtslehrbüchern, die fiktionalisierte Berichte und verzerrte Fakten enthalten, die massive öffentliche Empörung auslösten,[9] hat die Regierung zu einem weiteren Schwinden des öffentlichen Vertrauens in den Sinn und Zweck der wisenschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung mit Geschichte beigetragen.

Infolgedessen bleibt die Geschichte zu einem grossen Teil der Öffentlichkeit zu Füssen gelegt, die die Vergangenheit der Nation auf der Grundlage ihrer unterschiedlichen ethnischen und politischen Orientierungen interpretiert und darauf reagiert. Geschichte wird als Zeitvertreib angesehen und für ihren Beitrag zur Entwicklung der kulturellen und nationalen Identität gefeiert, jedoch nicht als lohnendes akademisches Unterfangen geschätzt. Dwarko argumentiert, dass die Situation der öffentlichen Geringschätzung der Geschichte als Disziplin zum kränkelnden Zustand des Geschichtsunterrichts beiträgt.[10]

Von der Strasse in den Unterrichtsraum

Eine Auswirkung der negativen öffentlichen Wahrnehmung von Geschichte als Disziplin ist die mangelnde Wertschätzung der Studierenden für den Wert und die Relevanz ihrer Auseinandersetzung mit Geschichte. Die Zahl der Einschreibungen im Fach Geschichte sinkt im Vergleich zu anderen Fächern, und den Studierenden wird oft ein Gefühl der Minderwertigkeit in Bezug auf ihre Fächerwahl vermittelt. Einige schämen sich sogar, öffentlich kundzutun, dass sie Geschichte belegen.

Die begrenzte Unterstützung der Regierung für das Fach Geschichte an Schulen zeigt sich in knappen Unterrichtsressourcen, unzureichenden Möglichkeiten für die berufliche Weiterbildung von Geschichtslehrer:innen und einem überladenen Lehrplan mit einem ziemlich starken Fokus auf antike Zivilisationen auf Kosten von nachvollziehbaren lokalen Geschichten. In diesem Kontext greifen viele Geschichtslehrer:innen auf grosse Erzählungen zurück, die das Verständnis und die Wertschätzung der Schüler:innen für Geschichte verschleiern.[11]  Absolvent:innen des Fachs Geschichte finden neben dem Unterrichten keine Arbeit. Trotzdem werden Geschichtslehrer:innen nicht respektiert und Klassenzimmer in denen Geschichte unterricht wird, laufen Gefahr, in Zukunft leer zu stehen. Der Geschichtsunterricht wird daher von allen Seiten durch hinderliche öffentliche Wahrnehmungen und Haltungen sowie unsensible Regierungen und bildungspolitische Formulierungen bedrängt.

Public History an öffentlichen Orten

Die vielleicht auffälligste Darstellung der öffentlichen Geschichte in Ghana sind die Sklav:innenburgen, die zunächst als Handelsposten für Gold dienten, später aber zu wichtigen Häfen wurden, die von englischen Kaufleuten genutzt wurden, um die erzwungene Migration von Afrikaner:innen nach Amerika zu erleichtern. Diese Sklav:innendenkmäler sind zu bleibenden öffentlichen Emblemen der grausamen Sklaverei geworden, die oft alte Wunden der Wut und des Grolls unter den Ghanaern aufreissen. Die jüngsten Feierlichkeiten zum Year of Return (“Jahr der Rückkehr”) im Jahr 2019 anlässlich des 400. Jahrestages seit der Ankunft der ersten afrikanischen Sklav:innen in Amerika zogen Hunderttausende von Nachfahren der afrikanischen Diaspora nach Ghana, die sich wieder mit ihren Wurzeln, ihrer Geschichte und ihren Traditionen verbinden wollten. Der Sklav:innentourismus, ein zentrales Element des “Year of Return”-Projekts, bot Tourist:innen die Möglichkeit, Burgen und Verliese zu besuchen, in denen ihre Vorfahren vor ihrer endgültigen Verschiffung nach Amerika durch das Door of No Return (“Tor ohne Wiederkehr”) festgehalten wurden.

Das Gefühl der kulturellen Verbundenheit, das die Besucher:innen empfanden, als sie in den stockdunklen Strafzellen und Verliessen der Burgen in Cape Coast und Elmina den Erzählungen ihrer versklavten afrikanischen Vorfahren lauschten, bot Gelegenheit zur Reflexion und Neuinterpretation des Sklavenhandels.[12] Innerhalb Ghanas und der afrikanischen Diaspora haben das Jahr der Rückkehr und die Nachstellung (reenactment) der Geschichte der Sklaverei öffentliche Gespräche über schwierige Vergangenheiten neu entfacht und die Bedeutung der Verbundenheit mit unserem kulturellen und historischen Erbe hervorgehoben. Für viele Diasporeaner löste die Erinnerung an den Sklavenhandel Trauer, Wut und ein Gefühl des “Nie wieder” aus.

Eine afroamerikanische Touristin, Roxanne Caleb, wird mit den Worten zitiert: “Darauf war ich nicht vorbereitet. Ich bin untröstlich. Ich kann es immer noch nicht fassen, dass ein Mensch einen anderen schlimmer als eine Ratte behandeln kann.” [13]  Für einige Einheimische war die Erinnerung an die Grausamkeiten, die den Sklaven angetan wurden, und die Besichtigung des Sklavengebäudes heilsam. Das Jahr der Rückkehr erneuerte somit das öffentliche Bewusstsein für historische Traumata und die transgenerationalen Auswirkungen solcher traumatischen Ereignisse wie der Sklaverei auf die heutigen Generationen.

Abbildung 1: Cape Coast Castle (Ausschnitt)

Abbildung 2: Das Tor ohne Wiederkehr (“Door of no Return”), Cape Coast Slave Castle, Ghana

Fazit

Geschichte durchdringt das öffentliche Leben in Ghana und prägt das Gefüge der traditionellen und modernen Gesellschaft; dennoch ist Public History derzeit kein aktiver Forschungsbereich in Ghana, als Folge von Faktoren wie eine schlechte öffentliche Wahrnehmung und mangelnde Unterstützung der Regierung für Geschichte als wissenschaftliche Disziplin. Die jüngste Entwicklungenen deuten auf ein Erfolgspotential hin, aber jeder Erfolg an dieser Front würde eine signifikante Änderung der öffentlichen Einstellung gegenüber geschichtsbezogenen Disziplinen und grössere Investitionen der Regierung und von Interessengruppen erfordern. Während das öffentliche Bewusstsein für lokale Geschichte positiv aussieht, könnte ein solches Geschichtsbewusstsein so interpretiert werden, dass es die zugrunde liegende historische Perspektive hervorhebt, die die öffentliche Geschichtsforschung liefert.

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Literaturhinweise

  • Boadu, Gideon. “Historical Significance and the Challenges of African Historiography: Analysis of Teacher Perspectives.” Pedagogy, Culture & Society (2020), 10.1080/14681366.2020.1843070.
  • Dwarko, D. A. “History – Our Ailing Subject: The Need for Revival in the 21st Century.” In Challenges of Education in Ghana in the 21st Century, edited by D. E. K. Amenumey, 167-78. Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 2007.

Webressourcen

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[1] Der Begriff “formal” wird hier für Dokumentation westlicher Prägung verwendet. Traditionelle Praktiken hat in ihrem eigenen Kontext von sich aus formale Gültigkeit.
[2] Fynn, J. K., R. Addo-Fenning, and J. Anquandah. History for Secondary Schools. Accra, Ghana: Ministry of Education, 1991.
[3] Reindorf, C. C. History of the Gold Coast and Asante: Based on Traditions and Historical Facts, Comprising a Period of More Than Three Centuries from About 1500 to 1860. Basel: Basel Press, 1895.
[4] Hegel, G. W. F. Philosophy of History. New York: Dover Press, 1956.
[5] Trevor-Roper, H. The Rise of Christian Europe. London: Thames & Hudson, 1965.
[6] Boadu, G. “Historical Significance and the Challenges of African Historiography: Analysis of Teacher Perspectives.” Pedagogy, Culture & Society  (2020).
[7] Ibid.
[8] Kyere, N. A. Akufo-Addo supervising over distortion of Ghana’s history – Edem Agbana (2021). Retrieved from https://3news.com/akufo-addo-supervising-over-distortion-of-ghanas-history-edem-agbana/ (letzter Zugriff 16. März 2021).
[9] Amoh, E. K. Prof Adu Boahen “was broke as a historian’”(2017). Retrieved from https://3news.com/prof-adu-boahen-was-broke-as-a-historian/ (letzter Zugriff 16. März 2021).
[10] Kyere, N. A. Akufo-Addo supervising over distortion of Ghana’s history – Edem Agbana (2021).  Retrieved from https://3news.com/akufo-addo-supervising-over-distortion-of-ghanas-history-edem-agbana/ (letzter Zugriff 16. März 2021).
[11] Dwarko, D. A. “History – Our Ailing Subject: The Need for Revival in the 21st Century.” In Challenges of Education in Ghana in the 21st Century, edited by D. E. K. Amenumey, 167–78. Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 2007.
[12] Boadu, G., D. Donnelly, and H. Sharp. “History Teachers’ Pedagogical Reasoning and the Dynamics of Classroom Implementation in Ghana.” History Education Research Journal 17, no. 2 (2020): 179–94.
[13] Morrison, A. The “Year of Return” and the unintended consequences for Ghanaians (2020). Retrieved from https://ksr.hkspublications.org/2020/01/29/the-year-of-return-and-the-unintended-consequences-for-ghanaians/ (letzter Zugriff 16. März 2021).
[14] AFP. Ghana draws African-American tourists with “Year of Return” (2019). Retrieved from https://www.news24.com/news24/travel/watch-ghana-draws-african-american-tourists-with-year-of-return-20190822 (letzter Zugriff 16. März 2021).

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Abbildungsnachweis

Fort São Jorge da Mina © 2002 Photo RNW.org CC BY-ND 2.0 via flickr.
Fig 1: Cape Coast Slave Castle © 2004 Julius Cruickshank CC-BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Fig 2: Cape Coast Castle Door of No Return © 2012 sixthofdecember  CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Empfohlene Zitierweise

Boadu, Giden: Geschichte und Public History in Ghana. In: Public History Weekly 9 (2021) 3, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18122.

Redaktionelle Verantwortung

Marko Demantowsky

Translated by Dr Mark Kyburz (www.englishprojects.ch)

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The assessments in this article reflect only the perspective of the author. PHW considers itself as a pluralistic debate journal, contributions to discussions are very welcome. Please note our commentary guidelines (https://public-history-weekly.degruyter.com/contribute/).


Categories: 9 (2021) 3
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18122

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  1. To all our readers we recommend the automatic DeepL-Translator for 22 languages. Just copy and paste.

    OPEN PEER REVIEW

    A Case for Public History

    Against a backdrop of extensive changes in history education in Ghana, since the colonial period, the article, “History and Public History in Ghana”, discusses the status of public history in the Ghanaian national context.  It makes a case for the strengthening of the study and promotion of public history in the Ghanaian academy and the public space.

    The article converges and distils perspectives from history, public history, school history, cultural historical practices, Western representation of African history and current developments to argue that, “[p]ublic history in Ghana is at an embryonic stage with a dearth of public history researchers and the absence of public history themes in the curricula of many universities”. Conspicuously missing in the article, however, is a theoretical engagement with what public history is. Public History, as a concept and praxis, has definitional issues.

    “[T]here is no consensus about the definition and boundaries of public history, nor is there an assumption that these definitions and boundaries remain unchanged over time … and in different national contexts…. In this case, “public history” encompasses university-based training, the scholarly infrastructure, and the actual work of public historians … which often results in different perspectives about the term.[1]

    Despite this lacuna, the article discusses an apparent lack of serious and sustained academic focus on public history as an important aspect of historical studies in Ghana.

    Unlike the Ghanaian situation, the deliberate acceptance and use of public history as a pedagogical tool to enhance the historical consciousness of publics inside and outside the academy about human cultural and historical evolution has received attention in different places internationally. [2] The genealogy of scholarship in historical studies in the Ghana shows a traditional privileging of political history and economic history.[3]
    Public history, as the article aptly reveals, “is somehow diffused into academic history as there is no forthright focus on the area and researchers devoted to studying public representations of the past in the present are scarce.” The article, thus, argues that public history should be promoted as a field of study and praxis for national development in Ghana. The country has a historically curious public, numerous key historical places, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites,[4] and records that link Ghana to global trajectories of history, such as the Transatlantic Slave Trade (TST), contemporary realities of the African diaspora, and dark tourism to the slave dungeons of the TST. These therefore offer opportunities for Ghana to innovative ways to promote public history in the public space. Illustratively, the article mentions how the Year of Return project of 2020, established by the Government of Ghana to use historical memory and material culture of the slave dungeons to strengthen Ghana-African Diaspora relations, and encourage diasporic African peoples to repatriate or visit Ghana, showcased the importance and indispensability of public history to nation building and renewal of the historical consciousness of the public.

    The Year of Return project presented opportunities for Ghanaian and diasporic publics to reflect and re-interprete an important historical event like the Slave Trade outside the academy. It highlighted the importance of cultural and historical heritage and the renewal of “public consciousness of historical trauma and the transgenerational effects of such traumatic events such as slavery on present generations”. Additionally, it encouraged public conversations about the need for communal healing from the difficult and traumatic past.

    However, in a reference to the history of the TST, the article erred in stating that the so-called “slave castles” in Ghana “initially served as a trading post for gold, but later became major ports that were used by English merchants to facilitate the forced migration of Africans to the Americas.” Factually, the Portuguese, Swedes, Brandenburgers, Danes and Dutch also used them as slave dungeons to support the TST.

    Worth of mention, however, is the fact that the article depicts public history as a zone of less active research in the scholarly terrain of Ghana because of some lingering factors. The first is the common negative perception about history as a field of study and a career path, and, the second is the lack of adequate government support for history in schools. Thus, the article explains that there is an erroneous public perception that the teaching and learning of history is an “unprofitable venture”. This has made the discipline to appear unattractive, making many prospective students to veer into other disciplines that they consider “to be more economically viable”. Regarding the second factor, the article avers that “funding for historical research is nearly non-existent and universities are struggling with enrolments in history. Governments have focused on STEM subjects to the neglect of the humanities in general.”

    Despite these challenges, the level of an existing public awareness of local history and interest towards the ethnic and national pasts, which have been traditionally sustained by “societal memory structures such as oral histories or traditional customs, public celebrations, and recent occurrences”, and the “general discontent with which some sections of Ghanaian public approached misrepresentations of some political and ethnic groups in some recently published history textbooks” demonstrate that the public is aware of history as an indispensable part of social life and nation building.

    This extant understanding of historical knowledge as valuable to social life and the building of national consciousness shows that historical competence is not and should not be a preserve for academic historians alone. Thus, the building, dissemination and understanding of historical knowledge should be democratised within the public sphere. Clear-cut academic programmes should also be created in tertiary education institutions to train professionals to sustain the praxis of public history within the non-academic public zones.  This makes the promotion of public history imperative a thing to do.

    Public history can and should be promoted and sustained on the back of the encouraging level of the existing historical consciousness in Ghana. Negative attitudes towards history-related disciplines should change. Finally, adequate financial resources from the government and other stakeholders should be injected into the veins and operations of the praxis of public history in both the academic and non-academic spheres in Ghana.

    _____

    [1] James B. Gardner and Paula Hamilton, “The Past and Future of Public History: Developments and Challenges”, in Paula Hamilton and James B. Gardner (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Public History, 2017, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199766024.013.29
    https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199766024.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199766024-e-29. Retrieved on 4 April, 2021.  For more on the subject matter of defining public history see Robert Kelley, “Public History: Its Origins, Nature, and Prospects,”The Public Historian, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1978, pp. 16-28; Marko Demantowsky, “What Is Public History,” in Marko Demantowsky (ed.),
    Public History and School: International Perspectives, De Gruyter: Berlin/Boston, 2018, pp. 3–38.
    [2] See, for example, Thomas Cauvin, “The Rise of Public History: An International Perspective”, Historia Critica, 68, 68, 2018, pp. 3-26.  It has even led to the establishment of associations and councils. See, for example, National Council on Public History, https://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/about-the-field/.  Australian Centre for Public History, https://www.uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/our-research/australian-centre-public-history/about-acph/about-centre. Clear-cut training programmes in Public History have also been developed. See for example, University of Massachusetts, https://www.umass.edu/history/public-history-courses,.  Ruskin College, Oxford, https://www.masterstudies.com/MA-in-Public-History/United-Kingdom/Ruskin-College/,  University of York, https://www.york.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-taught/courses/ma-public-history/,  and Middle Tennessee State Univesity, https://www.mtsu.edu/programs/public-history-phd/
    [3] De-Valera N.Y.M. Botchway, Boxing is no Cakewalk! Azumah “Ring Professor” Nelson in the Social History of Ghanaian Boxing, Grahamstown: AHP/NISC, 2019, p. 19.
    [4] Examples of such sites are the slave dungeons at Cape Coast and Elmina, which are commonly referred to as Castle Coast Castle and Elmina Castle respectively. These sites attract a lot of pilgrims, researchers and tourists every year.

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