Housing the City

Filmmaker:  Vida Owusu–Boateng

Year of production: 2014
Location: Ghana
Duration: 28 Minutes.
Sound: mono
English Subtitles

The film follows the difficult process of finding accommodation in Accra, Ghana.

Copyright: 2014  Visual Cultural Studies, University of Tromsø

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ABSTRACT Finding accommodation in Ghana’s capital Accra can be a tricky and daunting task. This situation has been attributed to rapid urban growth which has led many city dwellers to rely on middle men, known as house agents to help with their housing needs. Though popular among city folks, house agents activities remain unexplored area of research. As an emerging urban formm, this enterprise is unique in its operations. The aim of this master thesis was to explore and better understand house agency enterprise as a means of living for a rapidly growing urban population in Ghana’s capital, Accra to uncover the strategies and activities that are used. In understanding house agents activities, I draw on Robert Putnam’s social capital theoretical conceptions of trust, norms and social networks to uncover the social organization of the enterprise as well as strategies used by agents in their daily activities. The study relied on qualitative data, gained from participant observation, during a three-month fieldwork in Accra, and coupled with interviews with key stakeholders namely house agents, house seekers and house owners, to provide data for analysis. The study explores the various aspects of their work, uncovering strategies and agenda. The main findings in this study are as follows: house agency enterprise is largely an information disclosing enterprise and secondly, house agents hugely exploit social capital as a business strategy in their dealings with house seekers and house owners in this city, sometimes with success and sometimes with negative repercussions. The thesis argues for the usefulness of social capital both as an analytical tool in the study of urbanization and its consequences and as an approach to the subjective world of the informants in understanding people’s daily experience of the phenomenon.

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