"They were looking for white jobs": The archaeology of postcolonial capitalist expansion in coastal Ghana

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Christopher DeCorse


Archaeology, Postcolonial, Capitalist expansion, Ghana

Subject Categories

African History | Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | History | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology


The historical archaeological study of capitalism raises a number of methodological questions surrounding the ways in which archaeologists might use the material record to bring forth multiple voices in the past. Centrally, any historical archaeology of capitalism which wishes to present multiple views of past contexts must negotiate the ambiguity and manipulation of the material record of a given site in such a way as to do justice to the concrete particulars of the site while recognizing the broader conditions in which that site was formed. Through the examination and triangulation of ethnographic, archaeological and documentary data about three villages in late twentieth-century coastal Ghana, this dissertation develops an approach to capitalism in the recent past and present. Through the application of Derrida's concept of difference , this approach develops a theoretical apparatus that, when applied to the material record of these villages, addresses the need for a means of negotiating the uncertainty and contestation seen in the material records of capitalist contexts. Further, through an engagement of this apparatus with geographic and political ecological constructions of place, this approach demonstrates the way one might link the concrete particulars of their sites to processes that transcend the scale of the site. In addressing these issues, this approach contributes to the broader understanding of capitalism and the ways in which it plays out in the lives of those living at its margins through the example of these villages in coastal Ghana.


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