Spiders of the Market

Spiders of the Market

Ghanaian Trickster Performance in a Web of Neoliberalism
David Afriyie Donkor
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/04/2016
Format: Hardback 11 b&w illus., 1 table, 11 video
ISBN: 978-0-253-02134-2
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The Ghanaian trickster-spider, Ananse, is a deceptive figure full of comic delight who blurs the lines of class, politics, and morality. David Afriyie Donkor identifies social performance as a way to understand trickster behavior within the shifting process of political legitimization in Ghana, revealing stories that exploit the social ideologies of economic neoliberalism and political democratization. At the level of policy, neither ideology was completely successful, but Donkor shows how the Ghanaian government was crafty in selling the ideas to the people, adapting trickster-rooted performance techniques to reinterpret citizenship and the common good. Trickster performers rebelled against this takeover of their art and sought new ways to out trick the tricksters.

Author Bio

David Afriyie Donkor is Assistant Professor of Performance Studies and Africana Studies at Texas A&M University. He is an actor and a director who has adapted several folktales, personal narratives, and literary works for the stage. His scholarly work is published in Ghana Studies, Cultural Studies, Theatre Survey, and TDR.


“A precise and inviting appeal to political economy, performance, and the enduring relevance of the cultural and archetypal trickster.”
 — D. Soyini Madison, Northwestern University

“David Afriyie Donkor's experience as a theatre artist and director supports the rich political economic component that frames this analysis of performance and performance traditions for broad audiences.”
 — Jesse Weaver Shipley, Haverford College

“By sharing the performance experiences, rather than texts, Donkor accomplishes the challenging task of introducing rare theatre performances in a particularly compelling context for a Western readership in a global age.”
 — Theatre Survey

“Overall, as a Ghanaian actor and director as well as a scholar, Donkor’s cultural insider analyses of ananse theatre within the space of political economy make important contributions and interventions to the discourses on performance (theory) and neoliberalism and their interaction in Ghana and Africa.”
 — African Studies Review

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Table of Contents

1. From State to Market: The History of a Social Compact
2. Once Upon a Spider: Ananse and the Counterhegemonic Trickster Ethos
3. Selling the President: Stand-Up Comedy and the Politricks of Endorsement
4. Ma Red’s Maneuvers: Popular Theater and "Progressive" Culture
5. In the House of Stories: Village Aspirations and Heritage Tourism