New Urban Childhoods? Globalisation, Socialisation and Urban Informality on Children in Ghana

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:54 PM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Phillip MIZEN , Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Yaw OFOSU-KUSI , University of Education, Winneba, Ghana
Globalisation has fuelled rapid and unprecedented levels of urban expansion the consequences of which for children’s socialisation have been profound. ‘Urbanisation without industrialisation’ is how Davis (2006) terms this process, as economic dislocation, widening inequalities and rapid social change have undermined the capacity of cities to meet the needs of their rapidly growing populations. Many cities and towns no longer equate with the ‘engines of growth and structural transformation’ (UN-HABITAT 2005, 2010) attributed to them by classical urban theory, but instead appear both cause and symptom of lasting economic and social crises. It is argued here that one aspect of this may be productively explored through the notion of ‘urban informal childhood’. Focusing specifically upon Ghana, the paper examines the growth of informal ways of working and living in urban areas and considers the implications of this for children and their socialisation. To do so it considers the experience of structural adjustment in Ghana – a ‘poster-child’ for globalised market led development strategies – and traces through its impact on urban development in terms of ‘informalisation’ (Meagher 1995) and its corollary the growth of ‘wageless life’ (Denning 2010). Particular attention is given to the implications of these developments for children as both dependents and workers, and the impact of this on processes of socialisation. As structural adjustment finds a parallel in processes of domestic re-regulation, this paper argues that children’s value to their household is progressively being re-constituted. The consideration of the informal – activity ‘outside the regulative ambit of the state’ (Harriss-White 2010) – is also pursued through attention to new forms of urban living. As urbanisation becomes increasingly synonymous with the development of ‘slums’ and illegal settlements, this paper considers the rise of informal urban childhood through inadequate housing, overcrowding and a lack of basic services for children.