African Oral Narratives
Life Stories of Women Traders and Former Traders From Kumasi Central Market

About the Collection

These narratives were collected as part of a research project to explore the economic ideas of experienced market women from Kumasi Central Market through their life stories.   The narrators are women older than 45, from Kumasi and mainly Asante, who either traded in Kumasi Central Market at that time or had done so and retired.  Some were market leaders of commodity groups, some were wealthy and others had gone bankrupt.

The interviews were recorded by Dr. Gracia Clark, an anthropology professor at Indiana University who had worked in KCM since 1978, with interviewing assistance by Mrs. Mary Appiah, a former seamstress and leader in the local Presbyterian Women’s Fellowship.  Mr.J. K. Asiedu and Mr.E.K. Yeboah assisted Mrs. Appiah with Twi transcriptions and  English translations. They were conducted in Dr. Clark’s Kumasi house or at the narrators’ homes as convenient, and tape recorded on cassettes.  Absolute privacy was rarely practical; some narrators preferred to bring a companion along to the interview, while others preferred to talk in private homes, where other residents might be present.  .  Fieldwork took place during the 1994-5 academic year, when neoliberal economic policies and democratic elections had reduced fears of price controls and repression that peaked in 1979-1984. Consent was given for publication of the narratives at that time.

Dr. Clark intended  them to reveal traders’ ideas about economic change and local development through positive and negative aspects they emphasized and which topics led into each other. he interviews were non-directed as much as possible, prefaced by an explanation that the research was aimed at understanding recent economic changes and that the traders should speak about any topics they thought were important in their lives.  Traders consistently valued economic conditions that provided plentiful work, including supplier credit for easy entry into trading, and allowed both women and men to fulfill their financial responsibilities to children.  Building a house was the universal goal. The story line tended to conflate familial goals with commercial goals, spiraling back and forth between the two, each time at a slightly deeper level.  The c ollection addresses ethnographic concerns for preserving narrative voice, answers repeated calls for identifying grassroots development priorities,   and reinforces the key function of narrative expression of abstract ideas and moral priorities in many cultures.
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