Sovereigns and citizens in close encounter: Airport anthropology and customs regimes in neoliberal Ghana



Through the examination of encounters between Customs officers and travelers at Ghana's international airport, I pose a series of arguments regarding sovereignty and citizenship within a developing state deeply enmeshed in processes of liberalization. Supporting the contention that transnational flows and supranational interventions restructure rather than undermine state power, the Ghanaian case reveals neoliberal conditions to facilitate the expansion of administrative authorities oriented to the cross-border mobility of persons, capital, and commodities. Such bureaucratic realms emerge, in turn, as key arenas for an expression of state sovereignty that is not founded on social alienation and absolute distinctions between rulers and ruled. Because of the multiplicity and ambiguity of regulatory orders at play, sovereignty here hinges on intimacy, emotion, and identification as much as on force and legal sanction. [sovereignty, citizenship, aviation, customs regimes, transnationalism, neoliberalism, travel, affect]