Legal Pluralism, Land Tenure and the Production of “Nomotropic Urban Spaces” in Post-colonial Accra, Ghana

  • Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah University of Louisville
  • Margath Walker University of Louisville
Keywords: Postcolonial Ghana, Accra, nomotropism, legal pluralism, land tenure, Global South, informal settlement, urbanization


Urban Accra is haunted by the colonial vestige of legal duality reflected most prominently in its customary and statutory legal land systems. This paper addresses two critical issues within the urban legal nexus of Accra by placing nomotropism in dialogue with legal pluralism. The first addresses the rules which guide land use decisions/actions in urban Accra. The second questions the motivations of actors who adopt these rules. The paper communicates two key arguments. Accra’s urban space is increasingly being unveiled as a complex mix of rule violations and compliances—typifying Accra as a mix of nomotropic urban spaces. Therefore, the designation of a ‘truly’ informal space may only apply when both legal land systems are violated. Second, the urban poor have little or no motivation to comply with customary and/or statutory legal land systems because of increasing land prices and other bureaucratic processes which increase transaction costs pertaining to land.


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