The University of Arizona

In the shadows of power: the infrastructural violence of thermal power generation in Ghana's coastal commodity frontier

Callum Nolan, Michael K Goodman, Filippo Menga


This research adopts Jason Moore's concept of the commodity frontier, which portrays the socio-ecological impacts of capitalist expansion, to analyze the spread of Independent Power Provision in Sub-Saharan Africa. This form of power provision has thus far been under-theorized, especially its impacts on local communities, which must be addressed considering its contemporary popularity in the region. The article uses the concept of 'infrastructural violence' as an analytical lens, drawing upon its language and theories that describe the ways in which physical infrastructures often deemed benign can inflict violence on specific regions and social groups. Using a case study of the Takoradi Thermal Power Station in the Western Region of Ghana, the ethnographic research depicts the subtle yet highly deleterious forms of violence that occur within Aboadze, the small-scale fishing community the power station is embedded in, reducing access to vital resources including food, water and land, as well as the various exclusions that impact the livelihoods of a community already suffering from marginalization and poverty.

Keywords: Commodity frontiers, infrastructural violence, power station, Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana

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