Gender and Youth Citizenship in Contexts of Postcoloniality: The Marginalisation of Muslim Youth in Ghana

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Eric ANANGA, University of Winneba, Ghana
Vincent ADZAHLIE-MENSAH, University of Winneba, Ghana
Christine ADU-YEBOAH, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
Barbara CROSSOUARD, Centre for International Education, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
Mairead DUNNE, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
Since first gaining its independence from British colonial rule in 1957, the institution of democracy in Ghana is recognised as having been fraught and contentious. At different points, those in power have been determined through military coups, rather than through the ballot box.  However, although sharing many of the demographic characteristics of its neighbouring states, such as its significant youth population, little attention has been given to youth’s religious affiliations and how this may constrain their active citizenship. While the majority of the population is Christian, Ghana nevertheless has a significant Muslim minority (over 18%). However Ghanaian Muslim youth have recently gained prominence in local media, both in relation to protests about anti-Muslim discrimination in Ghanaian schooling, and within higher education, through the revelation that a Ghanaian student had left the country to join the organisation known as ‘Islamic State’. 

In the context of wider concerns about youth’s radicalisation, this paper will report from a recent research project exploring Muslim youth identity constructions in Ghana, focusing in particular on the intersection of nationality, religion, gender and ethnicity.   As in Dunne et al (2015), identity is conceptualised through post-structural, post-colonial and feminist theories, as a discursive production within which difference is constitutive (e.g. Hall, 2001).  Focus groups were conducted separately with male and female Muslim youth, and those who were in higher education, in school, or out-of-school. The study was conducted by researchers from two universities in Ghana and was further supported by local ‘youth researchers’, in order to facilitate the articulation of youth’s identity affiliations and their ‘constitutive others’.  Our analysis will illuminate Muslim youth’s sense of marginalisation, in particular foregrounding the intersection of gender with nation and religion as important sites of inequality.