Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Research project

Streetcorner design in Accra, Ghana

Consumer societies are a global presence, and marketing practices have spread to all corners of the world. However, the loud and glaring performances of the big advertising companies and the hegemony of shopping malls makes us forget that there are many different markets, and many merchants who have to do without the luxury of advertising budgets and marketing designers. Streetcorner merchants in Ghana, for example, generally design their own market furniture and modes of displaying goods.

Peter Pels

This everyday design, however, is generally ignored as being poor, and its inherent creativity overlooked. A preliminary study of Ghanaian street furniture, however, shows that many of the types and forms of display call up intriguing questions about how and why merchants decided to display goods in the way they do (Kamerman 2018). Not only are there many different types of street market furniture designs (stacks, racks, parasols, stalls, box offices, containers, roofs), their uses are by no means self-evident: roofs are often not used to protect goods but to hang them from, and box offices windows do not function to protect sellers when they exchange tickets for money (as in stadiums or cinemas). What, one may ask, determines the decisions of street merchants to decide on one design rather than another? How do they manage with limited means to develop effective marketing strategies? What would they do when funds and materials were more easily available? How do they relate to local political circumstances such as the police or local marketing ordinances and their restrictions?

Professor Samuel Ntewusu (University at Legon, Accra) and Peter Pels (University of Leiden) aim to bring together a Ghanaian student (MA History) with a MSc student in Cultural  Anthropology to study this phenomenon, most likely in Accra itself under the overall guidance of Ntewusu. The students are supposed to bring different skill sets to the research, combining a coherent approach towards the culture and sociology of advertising and sales of everyday commodities as applied to the streets of Accra, and the historical awareness, language and translation skills, and everyday “street smart” needed to work with street sellers in a respectful and reciprocal manner. Other collaborators might be found, not least because the National Museum of World Cultures is interested in such everyday design. Ntewusu has pioneered multiple forms of “everyday history” in Ghana;  Pels is an expert in the study of consumerism and commodity fetishism worldwide. For the Leiden student, research in Ghana is envisaged between 1 January and March 31, 2023, most likely in an Accra neighborhood to be chosen by Ntewusu.

Kamerman, Anke (2018) Persuaded by things: A typology of market furniture in Ghana. Utrecht: eigen beheer.

This website uses cookies.  More information.