Constructing a crisis: The effect of resource curse discourse on extractive governance in Ghana

McKenzie F. Johnson, Rebecca L. Laurent, Benjamin Kwao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ghana's 2007 oil discovery prompted widespread concern about the “political resource curse.” Ghanaian policymakers, in partnership with the international community, mobilized resource curse discourse to propel innovative reforms aimed at building institutional capacity, enhancing transparency, and promoting accountability. Ghana's urgent and decisive response to the problem of oil, however, highlighted its relative lack of resolve to address enduring mineral conflict. In this article, we employ fieldwork, event ethnography, and a content analysis of 1,003 articles published in Ghana's Daily Graphic (2006-2012) to trace the discursive and material effects of oil on Ghana's extractive governance landscape. We argue that global discourse around oil grounded in resource curse centered Ghana's political attention on oil relative to conventional minerals like gold and reinforced modes of extractive governance that overlook longstanding violence around gold extraction. Our research demonstrates the continued power of resource curse discourse to construct a model of natural resource governance and conflict that remains disconnected from lived experience. We question the utility of resource curse as a lens through which to view resource-conflict linkages by demonstrating how it fails to capture important aspects of the relationship between resource extraction, governance, and violent conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-974
Number of pages10
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Ghana
  • Gold
  • Oil
  • extractive governance
  • resource curse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Economic Geology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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