Being Available and Reachable
322 Pages
English
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Being Available and Reachable

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322 Pages
English

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The book investigates what have become of Cameroonian transnational family and friendship ties in the age of the mobile phone and the internet that make people readily available and reachable. Most theoretical literature states that these tools of sociality cement transnational social relationships through instantaneous interaction. To capture the different experiences and impressions on the significance of these media in easing communication for migrants and non-migrants, Tazanu draws on ethnographic accounts based on his fieldwork in Freiburg (Germany) and Buea (Cameroon). He argues that it is mainly the migrants who maintain or are expected to maintain ties with non-migrants back in Cameroon through calls and material support. The main finding of the study is that cell phones and the internet have facilitated discontents, grudges, insults, fights, avoidance, arguments and estrangement of relationships much more than they have contributed to binding friends or families through direct mediation. Underlying these aspects of distanciation are the high expectations and sometimes contradictory motives for instant virtual interaction. Non-migrants� accounts suggest that direct availability and reachability should lead to uninterrupted transnational interaction and also that the cultural practices of remittances from migrants are easily requested and coordinated. Such motives are generally contrary to migrants� wishes, willingness or ability to support friends and families in Cameroon. These unexpected outcomes arising from rapid speed of interaction questions the advantages that are often associated with instant sociality across space and time. The finding is a call for the cultural background and life-world experiences of media users to be taken into consideration when theorising the significance of information technology in the debate on media globalisation.

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Published 27 June 2012
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EAN13 9789956727223
Language English
Document size 5 MB

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Primus Mbeanwoah Tazanu
BEING AVAILABLE AND REACHABLE New Media and Cameroonian Transnational Sociality Primus Mbeanwoah Tazanu
Being Available and Reachable: New Media and Cameroonian Transnational Sociality Primus Mbeanwoah Tazanu
Langaa Research & Publishing CIG Mankon, Bamenda
Publisher: LangaaRPCIG Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group P.O. Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Region Cameroon Langaagrp@gmail.comwww.langaa-rpcig.net Distributed in and outside N. America by African Books Collective orders@africanbookscollective.com www.africanbookcollective.com ISBN: 9956-727-18-0 ©Primus Mbeanwoah Tazanu 2012
DISCLAIMER All views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Langaa RPCIG.
Table of Contents Acknowledgment………………………………………………………...vii Abstract………………………………………………………………… ix List of Acronyms………………………………………………………...xi Location of Field Sites………………………………………………….. xiii List of Figures…………………………………………………………... xvii Introduction to Being Available and Reachable………………………… xix Chapter I: Ethnographic Background………………………………. 1 Introduction…………………………………………………………….. 1 Colonial History: Coastal Plantations and Migration…………………… 2 Meaning of Migration and Staying Back………………………………… 9 Plantation Workers, Practices of Remittances and Conflicts……………. 11 Ties After Migration: Rural-urban Linkages and Solidarities……………. 15 Brief History of Contemporary Migration Out of Cameroon…………… 19 Telephone and Internet History in Cameroon…………………………... 21 Chapter II: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework………………. 25 Introduction…………………………………………………………….. 25 Anthropological Approach to New Media and Relationships…………… 25 Connectedness, Closeness and Instant Sociality………………………… 27 New Media and Transnationalism………………………………………. 28 New Media and Social Liveness………………………………………… 30 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 34 Chapter III: Methodology……………………………………………..35 Introduction…………………………………………………………….. 35 Fieldwork in Freiburg……………………………………………………35 Access, Credibility and Ethical Considerations…………………………. 36 Fieldwork in Buea………………………………………………………. 40 Access, Credibility and Ethical Considerations…………………………. 41 Research Participants, Methods and Types of Data…………………….. 44 Reflections on the Tandem Model……………………………………… 48 Position as Researcher…………………………………………………... 51 Multi-sited Ethnography: Integrating Results from Different Sites……… 54 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 56 iii
Chapter IV: Sensory Experiences and Selected Practices of Cross-Border Sociality………………………………………………………..57 Introduction…………………………………………………………….. 57 Expectations and the Compulsions to Get in Touch…………………… 58 The ‘Feel’ of the Media and Choice: Internet, Mobile Phones and Calls…………………………………………………………………….. 61 Selected Practices of Transnational Sociality…………………………… 67 Beeping: Wordless Sociality……………………………………………... 69 Call Requests and Promises: ‘Call me Back’ and ‘I’ll Call you Back’…… 79 Bush and Pays Calls: Answer and Talk…………………………………. 83 New Media Literacy and Sociality……………………………………… 93 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 98 Chapter V: New Media Technology and Sociality………………… 101 Introduction…………………………………………………………….. 101 Sociality, Cost and Access to Technology………………………………. 102 Spaces of Sociality……………………………………………………… 108 The Cyber Cafes…………………………………………………………110 The Call Centres………………………………………………………... 120 Placeless Spaces………………………………………………………… 122 Call Boxes………………………………………………………………. 124 Call Cards in Freiburg…………………………………………………... 129 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 135 Chapter VI: Visual Imagery, Virtuality and Trans-border Imaginations…………………………………………………………...137 Introduction…………………………………………………………….. 137 Migrant-focused Visual Imagery…………………………………………138 Bush Photos, Success, Denials and Concealments……………………… 139 Urban Visibility of Returned and Visiting Migrants…………………….. 144 Summing up Visual Imagery……………………………………………..148 On Virtuality: Deceit and Suspicion?........................................................ 149 Not Being There, ‘Truth’ and Rationality in Deceit…………………….. 150 Deceit and the Person…………………………………………………... 155 The Nation-state, Imaginations of Distance and Sociality……………… 156 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 161
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Chapter VII: Social Closeness, Distance and Discontent…………. 163 Introduction…………………………………………………………….. 163 Social Distance, Friendship and Family Ties…………………………… 164 Friendship: Bushfallers, Relationships and Break-ups………………….. 167 Family Examples: A Family within the Family…………………………. 176 Sharing Contacts: The Glee and Pain of Numbers……………………… 180 Experiences of Power Asymmetries…………………………………….. 186 Opportunism in Mediated Ties…………………………………………. 191 The Burden of ‘False’ Impressions: Focus on Non-migrant Youths………………………………………………………………….. 194 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 196 Chapter VIII: New Media and Material Expression of Transnational Social Ties…………………….………………………………………...199 Introduction……………………………………………………………. 199 Morality and Obligation: ‘Settling’ Non-migrants………………………. 201 The ‘Right’ to Request………………………………………………….. 201 Obligation to Support, Guilt and ‘Duress’……………………………… 206 Morally-correct Requests……………………………………………….. 210 Consciousness of Economic Position……………………………………214 On Pride, Dignity and Remittances…………………………………….. 215 Unspoken but Covert Expectations…………………………………….. 218 Expectations and Disenchantment……………………………………… 222 Illusions of Life Transformation………………………………………... 224 New Media, Investment and Scepticism………………………………… 230 Demands for Instant Solutions: ‘We do not have Immediate Solutions here’…………………………………………………………………….. 238 Family Squabbles……………………………………………………….. 242 Irritated Predator? A Recent Migrant Complains……………………….. 249 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 252 Chapter IX: Conclusion and Suggestions……………………………255 Thinking beyond Calls………………………………………………….. 255 Being Available and Reachable…………………………………………. 256 New Media, Inequality and Sociality……………………………………. 259 New Media, Bind and Grind of Relationships…………………………... 262 Conclusion……………………………………………………………… 266
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References……………………………………………………………… 269
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Acknowledgement
I am deeply indebted to several people who have supported my studies in one way or the other. I sincerely thank the following people: My advisors Prof. Dr. Judith Schlehe and Prof. Dr. Till Förster, myparents and siblings Francis Fuanyi Tazanu, Beatrice Anyinkeng, Felicity Foanyi, Adolf Atabongafac, Robert Fuanyi, Mercy Aletanu, Lucienne Aminkeng, Philomen Mbeache. My deepest thanks go to my son, Jan Fuanyi Busk Tazanu, Mia Busk, Pa William Nkemanjong and family, Mr Vincent Nguatem Achiambo and family, Mr Henry Tazinya and family, Staff and colleagues at the Institute of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Freiburg (Prof Gregor Dobler, Dr Heike Drotbohm, Dr Andreas Volz, Michiko Uike-Bormann, Dr. Eric Haanstad, Agnes Brandt, Dr. Margarete Brüll, Ita Yulianto, Ingo Rohrer, Kathrine Sharaf, Evamaria Müller, Bernhard Schittich, Michelle Novak ). Special thanks to Melanie Nertz and Sophie Kaiser-Dieckhoff for assisting me with the German formalities. Thanks too to thePassages of Cultureresearchers (Prof Adamu Abdalla, Prof Bole Butake, Prof Elizabeth Gunner, Bettina Frei, Nura Ibrahim, Jendele Hungbo, Mainasara Kurfi, Keneth Tume, Jennifer Musangi, Pani Fomiyen and Paul Tafor). Special thanks too to Dr Divine Fuh, Prof. Francis Nyamnjoh, Professor Philip Muus, Laurean Ajong, Dr Jude Fokwang, Schuster Family in Freiburg, Ndike Akung, Ramcel Ashime, Peter Elangwe, Hosiah Tchop (RIP), Emmanuella Che, Grace Kinge, Thelma Basil, Dr Clarence Pingpoh, Persie Pingpoh, Nathalie Fokoua, Fru Akumawah, Teghend Armand, Dr Chegnui Bekeny, Gwendoline Ashu, Jerry Muda, Linus, Comfort, Leocardie, Nyenti, Rita, Dr Victorine Che, Jackie Kameni, Bienvenu Tcatchou, Simplice, Nana Blandine, Christelle Teghem, Rene Betangbeh, Bernard Nkea, Dr Vivian Bih, Asong Fomenky, Acha Nwet, Mado Manka’a, Vincent Acha, Doris Embolo, Glory, Emmanuela Manka’a, Mr Willie, Takang, Ebot, Brenda, Hector, Rene Suh, Charles, Felix Nkemacha, Patricia Anjiteh, Bridget Nkeng, Mami Esther, Pa Thomas Njingo, Mispa Nkemacha, Sporah Amindeh, Charles Anu, Melvice Asohsi, Casianu Ngosong, Valerie, Francis Ngosong, Alfred, Joan, Sofia, Becky, Josephine Sonbet, Schubert, Emmanuel Awombang, Magnus Telelen, Tafon, Mabel, Centure, Mami Judith, Brenda, Magdaleine Mah, Sheila, Miriam,Scratch My Back, the defunct Cameroonian football team in Freiburg, Kurt Johannesen, Humlebæk Bibliotek, Copenhagen Business School library.
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My sincere thanks to the VolkswagenStiftung for providing me with a PhD grant. I am also thankful to authors whose works I have cited.
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Summary The book investigates what it means to be directly available and reachable for Cameroonians who use mobile phones and to a lesser extent, the internet, to keep in touch with friends and families across borders. Most theoretical literature states that these tools of sociality cement transnational social ties through instantaneous interaction. In fact, I set out to investigate these mediated relationships with a vision that the new communication media are technologies which people use to nurture their transnational friendship and family bonds. In order to capture the different experiences and impressions on the significance of these media in easing communication for migrants and non-migrants, fieldwork was conducted in Freiburg (Germany) and Buea (Cameroon). Field results reveal that it is mainly the migrants who maintain or are expected to maintain these ties through calls and material support. The main finding of the study is that rather than bind friends or families through direct mediation, these media have instead contributed to, as well as facilitated, discontents, grudges, insults, fights, avoidance, arguments and estrangement of relationships in most instances. Underlying these aspects of distanciation are the high expectations and sometimes contradictory motives for instant virtual interaction. Non-migrants’ accounts suggested that direct availability and reachability should lead to uninterrupted transnational interaction and also that the cultural practices of remittances from migrants are easily requested and coordinated. Such motives were generally contrary to migrants’ wishes, willingness or ability to support friends and families in Cameroon. The book pays attention to the expectations and unmet expectations, compulsions and frictions that are partly incited by and expressed through the new communication media. Although the unintended and unexpected outcome of live mediation is the dissatisfaction that most of the ties are not maintained, some participants however found transnational intimacy through the use of these media.
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