Schedule

APRIL 2024

Kwesi Yankah

Ghana’s Presidents and the Rhetoric of Heritage

19 April, 2024., at 5 p.m. CEST

Speaker's Biography:

Kwesi Yankah is a Ghanaian scholar in ethnography of communication, and a product of University of Ghana and Indiana University (USA). An academic, administrator, and author of several books, Yankah has been Vice-Chancellor of Central University, Ghana; and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Ghana. He was between 2017 and 2021 Ghana’s Minister of State for tertiary education. Yankah is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences; Fellow, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Honorary Fellow, American Folklore Society

Abstract:

The paper puts in a broad context the general exploitation of ethno-poetic resources by Ghana’s presidents to drive public policy and boost political charisma. Here icons of group identity derived from heritage are prioritized as quintessential, since they also celebrate a leader’s affinity with the masses. This has been optimally expressed in moments of stress where public sympathy is needed to drive policy or cope with a raging crisis. From the time of Ghana’s independence to date, Ghana’s leaders have actively deployed heritage to legitimize power and effectively convey policy positions. This was climaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the President set the pace depicting policy responses to the crisis through proverb icons in fabric wear. Ghana’s leader saw in the tragedy an opportunity to reinvent tradition, and wipe the nation’s tears through proverb lore.

The entire exercise is seen as a collective appeal to tradition to cope with contemporary crises, and as well demonstrate the healing power of heritage.