Incommensurable languages of value and petro-geographies: Land-use, decision-making and conflict in South-Western Ghana
Ghana, Land, Local communities, Petroleum, Planning, Value
Petroleum in Ghana has created new dilemmas for land control and spatial planning. This paper explores petro-geographies using the concept of “incommensurable values” to situate the multiple, conflicting, and intersecting values and framings attached to land. We identify languages of value used by non-state actors that reflect the need for social-market investments, gainful employment, food security, and protection from expropriation and pollution. We find that these languages are incommensurate with those of state actors, who emphasize efficiency, competitiveness, and voluntariness in pursuit of the “highest and best use of land and petroleum resources”. The spatial outcomes reflect a singularization of local incommensurable land values into commensurable spatial forms, creating an enabling environment for private and centralized extractive capital. Rural displacement and urban gentrification have become the costs of speculative “oil city projects” and “petro-industrial hubs”. The central government, state agencies, oil companies, and other stakeholders, have engaged in “value-legitimation” processes reflecting different values, backgrounds, and power positions. These processes delegitimize local conceptions of value in land, creating new contradictions and avenues for conflict. As a result, local knowledge and values are replaced with logics of market deregulation and “efficiency” in a “locking-in” of a new approach to planning and spatial development that will have significant impacts on economies, livelihoods and food security.
Otchere-Darko, William and Ovadia, Jesse Salah. (2020). Incommensurable languages of value and petro-geographies: Land-use, decision-making and conflict in South-Western Ghana. Geoforum, 113, 69-80.