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Swarthmore College

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Program Name

Ghana: Globalization, Cultural Legacies, and the Afro-Chic


The racialization of joy is one’s own experience of joy being tied to their racial, and ethnic identity. Inspired by the concept of Black joy, which is an example of the racialization of joy, this paper aims to understand how Ghanaian university students conceptualize joy and whether they would consider their experience of joy to be influenced by their racial/ethnic identity. 18 semi-structured interviews were conducted at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS). In addition, photography was used as a methodology to capture images of Black people experiencing joy and provides more of a human connection than what formal academia can offer. It’s necessary to uplift how Ghanaians use joy and laughter as potential forms of resistance against an anti-black world and day to day grievances because there is much research about hardships that Ghanaians experience, whether that’s socially, financially, or politically. I used thematic analysis to analyze the data which is split up into 4 parts: how Ghanaians define joy, perception of racial identity, the application of race to joy, and hobbies/activities. The findings include that the Ghanaian university participants defined joy as synonymous with being happy. The perceptions of Blackness or race included many participants noting that there’s no racism in Ghana and how accepting the country is. It’s important to note that many also addressed the colonization period and how Black people are still viewed as inferior globally. There were mixed opinions on whether race should be applied to joy. Many participants believed race shouldn't be applied to joy because the majority of the country is the same race. However, some participants believed that categorizing joy based on ethnicity was more relevant to uplifting ethnic groups that are often stereotyped. And some participants felt that there was no need to label joy in the first place.


Africana Studies | African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Photography | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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