Gender Fictions and Gender Tensions Involving “Traditional” Asante Market Women


  • Gracia Clark


This paper analyses the changing relations between organised women market traders and rulers in a West African context, from a distant past to the present. It shows how political elites have used market traders as loyal supporters and as scapegoats for many centuries. These relations have taken a convoluted path that alternates between alliance and repression, in the context of shifts in the political and economic environment. Notorious episodes of price control and market demolitions from 1979 to 1984 are only the most dramatic moments in a long history of official intervention in trade and suspicion of prominent traders. Protecting traders as local citizens alternated with attacking traders as scapegoats for the ills and frustrations of national economic life. The paper focuses on “traditional” forms of organisation among market women, describing their political role, in terms of their interactions between their female leaders and the authorities. It shows how the constant need for negotiation reinforced group loyalty and how such forms of organisation have displayed resilience and adapted to various economic and political shifts.