"Find their level": African American roots tourism in Sierra Leone and Ghana

Adia Benton*, Kwame Zulu Shabazz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In many "developing" and post-conflict African nations, cultural tourism has been touted as a vital source of foreign exchange revenue for jumpstarting national development. This trend has led to a scramble in Africa by African state officials seeking to "package" their nations in order to attract the patronage of Diasporan "returnees"-descendants of the Middle Passage who travel to Africa in search of cultural and historical "roots". This situation is further complicated by the fact that the planning and execution of national "packaging" frequently bypasses the ordinary citizen. Thus the official agenda of these nation states is sometimes at odds with the aspirations of local citizens and pan-African sojourners. Moreover, this trend has contributed to considerable conceptual slippage and, consequently, vociferous debates over the meaning of and criteria for asserting Africanness. In other instances, these conjunctures have transformed and enhanced received notions of African identity. An ethnographic comparison of a developing nation (Ghana) and a post-conflict nation (Sierra Leone) can both deepen and complicate our understandings of this emerging pan-African phenomenon and its attendant possibilities and limitations. We consider how these complimentary and conflicting interests, beliefs, and practices converge to shape novel modes of pilgrimage, nationhood, transnational dialogue, and globalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-511
Number of pages35
JournalCahiers d'Etudes Africaines
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2009


  • African Diaspora
  • African-centered
  • Ghana
  • Identity
  • Pan-africanism
  • Post-conflict
  • Roots
  • Sierra Leone
  • Tourism
  • Transnationalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Development


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