Building collapse: pathologies in cities in Ghana

Boateng, G 2019, Building collapse: pathologies in cities in Ghana, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Building collapse: pathologies in cities in Ghana
Author(s) Boateng, G
Year 2019
Abstract Charles Gore, the British economic geographer, once said that to the extent that national economies and societies are not completely isolated and closed from outside influences, any social inquiry that gives primacy to just internal national factors, isolates and separates them from external influences as determinants of phenomena has not completed its intellectual task.

This view, which is in perfect congruence with the tenets of the methodology of accident research developed by political economists for studying public risks, is detailed in Gore's celebrated critique of the so-called methodological nationalism and spatial separatism. This thesis distils the methods, ideas and lessons accrued in the literature on the methodology of accident research to explore the very serious but under researched urban issue of building collapse in developing countries' cities through a case study of Ghana.

Much has been written about the speculative urbanism in the Global South-the patterns, problems, and prospects. But much less is known about the foundations of the shaky buildings that characterize it, apart from the conventional pathological-indeed Malthusian-view that the unstable buildings in the cities are the result of building need pressures induced by overurbanization-the so-called `population bomb'.

In this study, the analytical purchase of this pathological or population focal framing of building collapse in Global South cities to Africa's situation is challenged. It is argued that while they tend to be closely linked to population expansions, the influences of vulnerability for building collapse in African cities are structurally interwoven into the political economy settlement of their housing sectors most of which were shaped and moulded from the dynamic interplay of indigenous, inherited and externally-imposed conditions and factors. The population-heavy approach to building collapse, therefore, serves as a convenient distraction by obfuscating their historical-institutional context - i.e. the impact of the housing programs, policies and ideologies of colonial and postcolonial governments and international bodies on the creation and magnification of building risks in those parts of the world.

The thesis assembles detailed empirical data, via interviews and focus group discussions, from a range of professionals, including building inspectors, planners, architects and researchers from Ghana as well as data from various secondary sources and interprets them within the political economists' methodology of accident research framework to demonstrate the analytical value of the above proposition. It shows how the intersectionality of colonial and postcolonial modernization and recent market-led neoliberal capitalist policies of successive governments and programs of international bodies and their resulting transformations have shaped Ghana's informal settlement of building supply and customary land tenure systems into enduring impediments that undermine compliance and enforcement of safe construction practices, with adverse repercussions for building safety.

Based on this analysis, the frequently asserted view that, as with developed countries, vulnerability for building collapses in developing countries could be addressed administratively through the enforcement of technical or engineering regulations or codes has shakier basis than is commonly assumed. Interventions to reduce such risks must be broad, more-wider reaching and involve initiatives that address more than just direct compliance and enforcement of technical regulations. They must also target the historically and socially created socio-political-economic factors, processes and systems that shape, dictate and implicate the pursuit and the provision of building needs and services in ways that produce progressive outcomes for a minority few and largely deleterious outcomes for the majority.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban & Social Studies
Subjects Urban Sociology and Community Studies
Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety
Urban Analysis and Development
Keyword(s) Africa
Building collapses/accidents
Developing countries/Global South
Socio-political-cultural-economic factors
Sustainable development/cities
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Created: Tue, 24 Mar 2020, 09:12:04 EST by Keely Chapman
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