Muntaka Chasant is a researcher and an independent professional documentary photographer based in Accra, Ghana.
His research interests straddle human geography and environmental sociology, and lie mainly at the intersection of urban marginality, geographies of waste, human-environment interaction, and new and emerging challenges, including the “three planetary crises” of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Marginalities & Mobilities
In framing everyday Accra, my work foregrounds the proliferation of urban struggles and explores traces of urban memories. Drawing on my own ethnographic fieldwork, I show the hidden geographies of Accra’s urban youth. Examples: youth boxing as a catalyst for upward social mobility in coastal Jamestown and hazardous child labour along the banks of the Korle, where memories and dreams intersect.
On the urban frontline, I draw on Edward Soja’s spatial justice theory — that justice has a geography and that the equitable distribution of resources, services, and access is a basic human right — to emphasize how locational discrimination reinforces urban inequalities.
Wacquant’s urban marginality vizualizes a concentrated poverty area such as the small part of the Old Fadama settlement below (illustrating a lack of provision of proper infrastructure as a spatial injustice) as an identified, bounded, isolated, and impoverished territory.
Key urban actors have often perceived a place such as Old Fadama as some sort of “social purgatory,” — as Wacquant put it himself.
But basic infrastructure and services in Ghana, for instance, are guaranteed and delivered by the state. So, the urban poor cannot be responsible for the conditions under which they live.
These theoretical tools frequently guide how I frame my subjects/communities/groups/people — in a way that prods the viewer to rethink urban inequality and reimagine a place such as Old Fadama as a site of spatial injustice.
Consequently, my urban photographic practices explore the representation of marginal(ized) urban populations, imaginative geographies, micro-level of everyday encounters in contested cities, stigmatized and sacrifice zones, critical urban theory, and how exclusionary logics materialize. Offering some kind of stability to the binary notion of the center and the periphery, my work outlines new perspectives on emerging urban conditions with the goal of contributing to the contemporary debates about justice, space, and the city.
“Fellowship With the Defeated”
Having spent a great deal of my young adult life wandering through some of the world’s most extreme places, I’m dedicating the rest of my youth at the urban frontline. To capture contemporary urban realities, dig deeper into the trenches of urban struggles and collects firsthand stories of people on the frontlines.
Dr. Rieux’s response to Tarrou in The Plague sums up how I feel about the communities/groups/people/themes I cover.
I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints.THE PLAGUE, ALBERT CAMUS
The pandemic is a difficult time for everyone. Feel free to say hello to me via the email — hello[at]muntaka.com — or the contact form below, and I promise to get back to you within 72 hours.
Good luck and stay safe!