Mobile phones in mobile margins: communication, mobility and social hierarchies in/from Africa

TitleMobile phones in mobile margins: communication, mobility and social hierarchies in/from Africa
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsI. Brinkman, and M.E. de Bruijn
EditorB. Mutsvairo
Secondary TitlePalgrave handbook for media and communications research in Africa
Date Published2018///
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Place PublishedBasingstoke
Publication Languageeng
ISSN Number978-3-319-70443-2
KeywordsAfrica, Angola, Cameroon, communication, ict, Mali, mobile phones

The mobile phone has become part of the changing history of communication cultures in Africa. Instead of viewing the introduction of new communication technologies as 'having major effects', as is often the case in ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) circles, we view the relation between technologies and society as interactive. New technologies, such as the mobile phone, may indeed lead to social change, yet at the same time people appropriate new technologies in creative and unexpected ways and make them fit into their social repertoires, thereby changing earlier meanings of the same technology. In this contribution we will discuss so-called marginal mobile communities in Africa in their interaction with new ICT. With this we mean communities consisting of strings of people spread over vast social spaces, combining migrants in various places and people that continue to live in the 'marginal' regions. Marginality is understood as related to absence of communication infrastructure that often combines with a political marginalisation vis-…-vis the state and with feelings of marginalisation. We will relate large-scale processes - here changes in patterns of mobility and communication - to mundane and everyday experiences of social connecting. We argue that these are more instructive than the usual macro-level assumptions about the 'impact' of the 'ICT revolution' in such so-called marginal regions. Contrary to a model-like approach to changes wrought by new ICT, we focus on the local evaluations of continued or new patterns of communication, mobility and social hierarchies at a daily level. The article discusses case studies from Cameroon (economic migrants), Mali (pastoral nomadic societies), and Angola (war refugees) focusing on local evaluations of the developments in communication technology in recent years. These local evaluations are interpreted in a comparative framework discussing the different and convergent histories of these regions in terms of marginality, infrastructure, mobility and communication technologies.

Citation Key9274