Who Knew the Minds of the People? Specialist Knowledge and Developmentalist Authoritarianism in Postcolonial Ghana

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By the mid-1960s, local-level development workers in Ghana were expected to act as the eyes and ears of the state, reporting on 'the minds of the people' and explaining their reactions to President Kwame Nkrumah's project of socialist reconstruction. This articles argues that through mass education, social welfare and community development plans, both the late colonial and early independent state sought to make its presence manifest in the everyday lives of its citizens, to bind them to a broader vision for their country, and to present their successes to the outside world. By identifying some of the competing models of social development that were promoted by British, Ghanaian and African-American experts in the aftermath of independence, this article investigates the role of specialist knowledge in the developmentalist authoritarianism which is often presented as a generic legacy of the colonial state in Africa.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-323
Number of pages27
JournalThe Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number2
Early online date27 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • ghana nkrumah socialism literacy development