Side@Ways: Mobile Margins and the Dynamics of Communication in Africa
212 Pages
English
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Side@Ways: Mobile Margins and the Dynamics of Communication in Africa

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212 Pages
English

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Marginality does not mean isolation. In Africa where people are permanently on the move in search, inter alia, of a �better elsewhere�, marginality means disconnection to obvious possibilities and the invisibility of the myriad connections that make life possible for the ordinarily sidestepped. This book is about the workings of networks of the mobile in Africa, a continent usually associated with the �global shadows� of the world. How do changes in the possibilities for communication, with the recent hype of mobile technology, influence the social and economic dynamics in Africa�s mobile margins? To what extent is the freedom associated with new Information and Communication Technologies reality or disillusion for people dwelling in the margins? Are ordinary Africans increasingly Side@Ways? How social are these emergent Side@Ways? Contributions to answering these and related questions are harvested from ethnographic insights by team members of the WOTRO funded �Mobile Africa revisited� research programme hosted by the African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.

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Published 16 January 2012
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EAN13 9789956728435
Language English
Document size 3 MB

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Side@Ways:Mobile Margins and the Dynamics of Communication in Africa
Edited by Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Brinkman and Francis Nyamnjoh
Side@Ways
Langaa & African Studies Centre
Side@Ways
Mobile margins and the dynamics of communication in Africa
Edited by Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Brinkman & Francis Nyamnjoh
Langaa Research and Publishing Common Initiative Group PO Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Region Cameroon Phone +237 33 07 34 69 / 33 36 14 02 LangaaGrp@gmail.com www.africanbookscollective.com/publishers/langaa-rpcig
African Studies Centre P.O. Box 9555 2300 RB Leiden The Netherlands asc@ascleiden.nl www.ascleiden.nl
Cover photo: Market in the village of Boubou, Chad, March 2012 [Djimet Seli]
ISBN: 9956-728-76-4
© Langaa & African Studies Centre, 2013
Contents
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Introduction: Mobile margins and the dynamics of communication.........1 Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Brinkman and Francis Nyamnjoh
Mobilité et moyens de communication au Guéra.........................................17 Djimet Seli
La connexion des marges: Marginalité politique et technologie de désenclavement en Basse Casamance (Sud du Senegal)......................36 Fatima Diallo
3 ‘Angola my country, Cape Town my home’. A young migrant’s  journey of social becoming and belonging....................................................61 Imke Gooskens
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Transnational migration and marginality: Nigerian migrants in Anglophone Cameroon...................................................................................82 Tangie Nsoh Fonchingong
Les femmes hadjaraye du Guéra à l’école d’alphabétisation....................98 Khalil Alio
From foot messengers to cell phones: Communication in Kom, Cameroon, c. 1916-1998...................................................................................113 Walter Gam Nkwi
Grandeur ou misères des cabines téléphoniques privées et publiques au Mali...........................................................................................129 Naffet Keïta
Information & communication technology and its impact on transnational migration: The case of Senegalese boat migrants.............159 Henrietta Nyamnjoh
9 Identities of place: Mobile naming practices  and social landscapes in Sudan.......................................................................178 Siri Lamoureux
List of authors............................................................................................................199
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List of maps 1.1 Directions de mobilités..................................................................................................21 6.1 Bamenda grassfields showing the location of Kom....................................................115 6.2 Kom Fondom showing its neighbours, villages and sub-chiefdoms............................116 9.1 Map of Sudan and South Sudan, showing South Kordofan ......................................... 181
List of photos 1.1 Un véhicule se rendant sur un marché hebdomadaire d’un village de Mongo...............26 1.2 Une batterie de telephone en charge avec des piles.......................................................30 1.3 Une assemblée d’hommes attendant un appel téléphonique .........................................31 2.1 Une jeune homme se retire pour passer des coups de fil alors que la voiture  qui le transportait est contrôlée par policiers au niveau de la frontière  entre le Sénégal et la Guinée-Bissau (Mpack)..............................................................43 2.2 Des voyageurs quittant la Casamance pour se rendre dans d’autres régions du pays attendent des heures le bac à Farenni pour traverser le fleuve en territoire Gambien..........................................................................................................52 3.1 Luanda skyline in 2010..................................................................................................73 5.1 Le temps d’apprende est arrivé...................................................................................105 5.2 Les femmes hadjaraye ont décidé de faire face au défi de l’analphabétisme..............108 5.3 Les femmes hadjaraye se sont appropriées la technologie de savoir lire et écrire......110 6.1 Two messengers in their official outfits ....................................................................... 123 6.2 Cell phones waiting for calls in ‘their huts’ ................................................................ 126 7.1 Si chaque société de téléphonie tient jalousement à ses produits et concepts  l’espace public Bamakois est assez clairsemé de nombreux bricolages autour  des usages de la téléphonie mobile. L’expression achevée de ces bricolages  est la figure des vendeurs amulants de cartes de recharger .......................................... 131 7.2 En investissant dans la publicité avec comme support des panneaux géants  hissés sur le toit des maisons de particuliers en étage, Orange Mali exprime  là une certaine forme de volonté de puissance ou d’expression de  sa notoriété-proximité auprès des consommateurs....................................................... 134 8.1 Migrant who returned from Spain due to ill health, St. Louis...................................... 167 8.2 Return piroque from fishing, St. Louis ........................................................................ 169 9.1 Nuba University student talking with people from the mountains ............................... 195
List of tables 7.1 Evolution du nombre d’abonnés au téléphone fixe entre 2003-2009 .......................... 133 7.2 Nomre d’abonnés aux réseaux fixes et cabines téléphoniques  (publiques et privées) ................................................................................................... 135 7.3 Les tarifs de communication à partir du téléphone fixe et mobile chez  Sotelma-Malitel et Orange à la minute......................................................................... 142 7.4 Evolution du nombre d’abonnés de la téléphonie au Mali (2001-2009) ..................... 153 7.5 Revenu par réseau de 2001 à 2009 (Milliards de FCFA) ............................................ 154 9.1 Ekhlas ........................................................................................................................... 190 9.2 Ensaf............................................................................................................................. 190 9.3 Suzanne ........................................................................................................................ 191 9.4 Baker ............................................................................................................................ 191
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Introduction: Mobile margins and the dynamics of communication
Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Brinkman & Francis Nyamnjoh
‘If we squander this chance to study mobile use, it will not come again’ (Ling & Donner 2009: 4)
The quote above reads like a riddle, an edict or a timely invitation for researchers to make intellectual capital from mobile technologies in an increasingly inter-connected world of flexible mobilities. While there are indeed multiple technolo-gies of mobility (mobile devices), Ling & Donner refer here specifically to the 1 mobile phone or cell phone. Indeed the rapid increase in mobile-phone use over the past decade is an unprecedented technological revolution due to its speed and its popularity in all social categories and geographical regions, although obvi-ously not for all and everywhere to the same degree. New communication tech-nologies are always being introduced. One simply has to think of the invention of writing or the introduction of the printing press in fifteenth-century Europe to see the relativity of today’s so-called ICT revolution (Darnton 2000). Gitelman and Pingree’s (2003) seminal work entitledNew Media, 17401915, with its com-ment that ‘all media were once new media’, highlights the importance of histori-cal interpretation when discussing technological change. It is fashionable for so-cieties and individuals, including scholars, to be euphoric about new technolo-gies, as Powell (2012: 44) reminds us in a critical review ofMobile phones: The new talking drums of everyday Africa(de Bruijnet al. 2009):
The mobile phone has relegated talking drums to being communication devices of the tradi-tional past particularly because of their convenience and multiple use options and of course, the outside introduction of this technology into the African continent indicating a demand for its integration into everyday life. However, to call mobile phones the new talking drums of everyday Africa suggests that mobile phones have triumphed over the talking drum even as a preferred method of communication which may not be the case. While it may have tri-umphed over the talking drum in its convenience it has not done so in its initial responsibility as a communication device. If we agree that the widespread and various uses of the mobile phone were influenced by the benefits and potentials of the talking drum, telephone and other forms of communication leading to the modernization of those traditions, we should then be waiting in anticipation for the next fad in mobile communication among Africans when the mobile phone gets married to something else; when mobile phones become theold talking drums of everyday Africa.
1  Mobile phone and cell phone are used interchangeably in this book.
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Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Brinkman & Francis Nyamnjoh
The tendency to be elated about the new technologies of the day, notwithstan-ding the history of technology, is also indicative of how extraordinary the speed of today’s technologically driven change is. It may be comparable to the period around the turn of the twentieth century when the rapid introduction of technolo-gies such as the telegraph, the motor car, the telephone and the radio transformed social landscapes in remarkable ways (cf. Gleick 2011). Research on the inven-tion of the Internal Combustion Engine (Gewald, Luning & van Walraven 2009) indicates the importance of this period, marked as it was by a revolution in com-munication. Another period was between the 1960s and 1990s and was characte-rized by an electronic revolution that led to the convergence of many technolo-gies (the telephone, computer, radio and television) in what is today commonly referred to as the Digital Revolution, a never-ending process of new technologies creatively blending old technologies with new ones to yield innovative outcomes that shape and are shaped by social relationships of various kinds. Such periods of change in communication, transport and mobility function as a window to a myriad of other social changes that influence relationships, encoun-ters and interconnections in unfathomable ways. The Mobile Africa Revisited 2 research programme, which started in 2008, emerged from an engaged interest at an exciting time when Africa’s cities and rural areas were in the process of be-coming connected to the mobile phone and other wireless technologies. Hence the first book in this series:Mobile phones: The new talking drums of everyday Africa. Today, as published research and contributions to this current volume in-dicate, the initial hype is fast fading and making way for more nuanced and com-plex accounts of how the mobile phone and the societies that have embraced it are mutually shaping each another (Lamoureaux 2011; Powell 2012; Tazanu 2012; van Pinxteren 2012). Change in this area is indeed rapid but it is such change that pushes social scientists off the euphoria bandwagon and into con-templating serious research beyond the immediate attractions of prescription and aspirations. This explains the shift in focus in our team’s research towards un-derstanding the relationships of conviviality and interdependence or processes of mutual accommodation and/or conflict between technologies (the mobile phone in this instance) and the individuals and communities that have adopted and adapted them over time and space. This volume – the second in the series – evi-dences this preoccupation with the need for accounts that are complex, nuanced and multi-perspective in nature and that reflect things as they are, and not as they
2  This Wotro-funded programme is entitledMobile Africa revisited: A comparative study of the rela tionship between new communication technologies and social spaces (Chad, Mali, Cameroon, An gola, Sudan and Senegal)’.See: http://mobileafricarevisited.wordpress.com. The programme’s re-searchers have been working in different contexts so workshops were organized to foster intensive de-bate in Bamenda, Cameroon in January 2009, January 2010 and January 2012. The team also spent time together in the Netherlands in 2008. This book presents the results of these workshops and dis-cussions.
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Introduction
ought to be or how we would like them to be. The contributions here are preoc-cupied with the study of the social shaping of the mobile phone in Africa, and not with the wishes, fantasies and expectations of us as researchers or development agents. We regard this edition as a step in an ongoing research process and not only invite further study on these issues by other scholars, but will also continue our own efforts in understanding the relations between communication, ICT, mobility and social relations in Africa in our future publications. With the title of this edition we have tried to capture the dynamics of margina-lity and mobility. ‘Sideways’ can be associated with marginality in the sense that it concerns places and spaces ‘at the sides’ (not in the centre). It also implies mo-bility as ‘sideways’ means a process of ‘going towards’. The movement called in with the concept ‘sideways’, however, may not be a movement to the centre, but ‘to the sides’ (as in ‘mobile margins’, see below). Sideways also means some-thing ‘social’, in the sense that looking sideways implies a form of solidarity, of moving together and moving towards others. As already indicated above, this social aspect of ‘sideways’ may not always be easy. It is hardly surprising that a closer look at how African migrants and their relatives are harnessing the mobile phone and making it available and reachable suggests a much more tempered reality. Tazanu (2012) in his ethnographic ac-counts based on fieldwork in Freiburg (Germany) and Buea (Cameroon) suggests conclusions that run counter to most theoretical literature that states that the mo-bile phone cements transnational social relationships through instantaneous inter-action. He argues that it is mainly migrants who maintain or are expected to maintain ties with non-migrants back in Cameroon through calls and material support. His study reveals that the mobile phone and the Internet have increased discontent, 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 distantiation 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 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. The unexpected outcomes arising from the rapid speed of interaction questions the advantages that are often associated with instant sociality across space and time. This finding is a call for the cultural background and world life experiences of media users to be taken into considera-tion when theorizing about the significance of information technology in the debate on media globalization. The chapters by Henrietta Nyamnjoh, Siri La-moureaux and Imke Gooskens (Chapter 8, 9 and 3, this volume) reveal similar
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