The Technopolitics of Infrastructure Breakdowns: A Historical Overview of Dumsor

Claudia Serwah Prempeh ORCID iD

Issue: Vol.1  No.7 November 2020  Article 1 pp. 234 – 247
DOI :  |   Published online 6th November 2020.
© 2020 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CCBY license (


In sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana is considered a beacon of success because of its high electricity access rate: 84.3 per cent as at 2018. Despite this success, the sector is entangled in a crisis. Crisis as used here refers to the crisis of electricity supply where supply deficits results in prolonged periods of blackouts and load rationing. Between 2012 and 2016, blackouts christened dumsor (Twi word for off/on) became a regular experience in Ghana with more blackouts than electricity supplied: 24 hours lights out, 12 hours light supplied. Using a historical narrative, this article provides a summarized account of how dumsor unravelled- the momentous cascading socio-economic interruption dumsor caused, the dramatic user responses it evoked and the ways in which it became the subject of intense political debate. Primary data was gathered from ethnographic fieldwork and secondary data from online and archival sources. This narration reveals the generative potential of uncertain infrastructure and its ability to foreground the “under the radar” interdependences between infrastructure and political power. It details how an “imperfect” electric infrastructure produced new user subjectivities, challenged the conduct of electricity governance and revealed electricity provisioning to be a starkly contested technopolitical process.

Keywords: Technopolitics, Blackouts, Dumsor, Infrastructure

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Claudia Serwah Prempeh is a Junior Fellow, Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), University of Bayreuth.

Prempeh, C. S., “The Technopolitics of Infrastructure Breakdowns: A Historical Overview of Dumsor,” E-Journal of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences 1, no.7 (2020): 234-247.

© 2020 The Author(s). Published and Maintained by Noyam Publishers. This is an open access article under the CCBY license (