State of Slum

Precarity and Informal Governance at the Margins in Accra

Paul Stacey


A study of Ghana’s largest illegal slum, revealing how such communities are able to govern themselves in the absence of state authority.

Home to eighty thousand people, Accra’s Old Fadama neighbourhood is the largest illegal slum in Ghana. Though almost all its inhabitants are Ghanaian born, their status as illegal ‘squatters’ means that they live a precarious existence, marginalised within Ghanaian society and denied many of the rights to which they are entitled as citizens.

The case of Old Fadama is far from unique. Across Africa, over half the population now lives in cities, and a lack of affordable housing means that growing numbers live in similar illegal slum communities, often in appalling conditions. Drawing on rich, ethnographic fieldwork, the book takes as its point of departure the narratives that emerge from the everyday lives and struggles of these people, using the perspective offered by Old Fadama as a means of identifying wider trends and dynamics across African slums.

Central to Stacey’s argument is the idea that such slums possess their own structures of governance, grounded in processes of negotiation between slum residents and external actors. In the process, Stacey transforms our understanding not only of slums, but of governance itself, moving us beyond prevailing state-centric approaches to consider how even a society’s most marginal members can play a key role in shaping and contesting state power.

Author Bio

Paul Stacey is a postdoctoral researcher in global development at the Institute for Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen. He has undertaken research projects for Oxfam America, the Danish Institute for International Studies, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is his first book.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Origins and Destinations
  • 2. Seeking Shelter and Freedom
  • 3. Gaining and Losing Land, and Soft Property
  • 4. Shifting Yam, and Market Place Citizenship
  • 5. Solving Problems and Emerging Authority
  • Conclusions and Policy Perspectives


Publication Date: 17 June 2021
240 pages


Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786992031

In Print

Product ISBNs: Hardback: 9781786992048
eBook ePub: 9781786992062
eBook PDF: 9781786992055
eBook Kindle: 9781786992079

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