Connections and Transformations: The Social Construction of Linking Technologies in Africa and Beyond

The theme group seeks to explore questions that evolve around the introduction of technologies in African societies and the social transformations this engenders. Our research focuses on understanding the way in which technologies enable people to create connections that may lead to social transformations in their societies. The theme group will, therefore, link up with debates about the relationship between technology and society, and the discussion on connections and social transformations. It will explore the socio-historical and cultural relationships that have developed between people and technology in Africa.
The central objective of this research programme is to unravel the dynamics of the interaction between changes in connections or disconnections and the introduction of new (communication, social and organizational) technologies and to investigate how these dynamics translate into social and cultural transformations in Africa and beyond.
1. Technologies of Mobility and Communication, New Dynamics in Spatial Relations in Africa and Beyond

Blog on Mobile Africa:
View movies here: The wireless camel - Mobile phones in Sudan and Cameroonians about Phones

2. I.C.E. in Africa: The relationship between people and the Internal Combustion Engine in Africa
3. Ideological technologies of connection: Religious linkages in the transformation of African societies

Research domains
As promising fields of research in the complex interrelationship between (dis)connections, technology and social transformations, we propose mobility, religion and ideology, knowledge and social hierarchies. From the interrelationship between these fields of study, a set of questions can be formulated that inspire research.
In our research projects we have chosen to concentrate on certain forms of connecting that appear to be ‘new’ in a certain period of societal existence and the way this is related to the introduction of technologies and how it produces social transformations. We have also chosen to build upon our experiences so far by concentrating on areas where we have worked before and trying to incorporate our former research. The theme group will devote considerable time to developing a theory or approach of connections and social transformations; and will put energy into the development of methodology, i.e. the proposal to do team research.

Within the domains of research identified, a number of specific research projects will be defined. In addition to these, the group will work on epistemological and ontological questions related to the development of a ‘theory of connections’ and on methodological issues.

The theme group plans to pay particular attention to the development of research techniques and to engage in some team research. This is meant as a methodological experiment that would help formulate methodologies, develop interdisciplinarity and provide insights into one specific research topic showing the relationship between transformation, technologies and connections.

The regional distribution of studies is as follows:
Southern Africa (Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique); West Africa (Mali, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Senegal), Central Africa (Chad, Uganda).

Main text research programme

History of the research group

ASC Researchers:
Wouter van Beek, Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Brinkman, Rijk van Dijk, Jan-Bart Gewald, Mayke Kaag

Head of the research group: Mirjam de Bruijn

Associated Members:
Baz Lecocq, Sabine Luning (Leiden University), Daniela Merolla, Giacomo Macola (Cambridge University), Julie Ndaya, Francis Nyamnjoh (CODESRIA), Ria Reis (University of Amsterdam), Sjoerd Sijsma, Marja Spierenburg (Free University of Amsterdam), Linda van de Kamp, Walter Nkwi

Ousmanou Adama, Ntewusu Aniegye, Ellen Blommaert, Inge Butter, Catrine Christiansen, Mary Davies, Laguerre Djerandi, Laurens Nijzink, Doreen Setume, Sebastiaan Soeters

Collaborating Institutes:
Musée Royale Tervuren (Belgium), Point-Sud Mali, University of Mali, University of Buea (Cameroon), University of Ngaoundéré (Cameroon), CODESRIA (Senegal), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), University of Botswana, Centre for the study of history Zambia, LASDEL (Niger), Max Planck Institute, Halle (Germany), Langaa Research and Publishing Centre (Cameroon)