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Mobile Phones: The New Talking Drums of Everyday Africa

Mirjam de Bruijn, Francis Nyamnjoh

Publication Year: 2009

'We cannot imagine life now without a mobile phone' is a frequent comment when Africans are asked about mobile phones. They have become part and parcel of the communication landscape in many urban and rural areas of Africa and the growth of mobile telephony is amazing: from 1 in 50 people being users in 2000 to 1 in 3 in 2008. Such growth is impressive but it does not even begin to tell us about the many ways in which mobile phones are being appropriated by Africans and how they are transforming or are being transformed by society in Africa. This volume ventures into such appropriation and mutual shaping. Rich in theoretical innovation and empirical substantiation, it brings together reflections on developments around the mobile phone by scholars of six African countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Sudan and Tanzania) who explore the economic, social and cultural contexts in which the mobile phone is being adopted, adapted and harnessed by mobile Africa.

Published by: African Books Collective

Cover

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pp. c-ii

Title Page

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p. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv-iv

Contents

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p. v-v

List of photos

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p. vi-vi

Preface

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pp. vii-viii

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An excerpt from Married but available, a novel by Francis B. Nyamnjoh

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pp. 1-10

(…) Lilly Loveless noticed that her cell phone was not with her. She must have left it in the taxi. They screamed for the taxi to stop, but the man did not seem to hear them. They immediately took another taxi to follow, calling her phone as they did, from Britney’s phone. After chasing for half a kilometre or so, they lost track of the taxi and gave up....

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1. Introduction: Mobile communication and new social spaces in Africa

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pp. 11-22

Africa’s communication landscape has undergone tremendous change since the introduction of mobile telephony. As the statistics show, mobile phones have spread remarkably fast across the African continent:1 1 in 50 Africans had access to a mobile phone in 2000 and by 2008 the figure was 1 in 3. This is a revolution in terms of voice communication, especially for areas where land lines were still rare at...

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2. Phoning anthropologists: The mobile phone’s (re-)shaping of anthropological research

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pp. 23-49

Communication technologies are increasingly playing a significant role in social and cultural interaction. Studies on the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on social life are emerging but focus mainly on western, urban contexts. With their inspiring study about the use of the cell phone in Jamaica, Horst & Miller (2006) called for an anthropology of communication, an innovative field that...

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3. From the elitist to the commonality of voice communication: The history of the telephone in Buea, Cameroon

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pp. 50-68

This chapter considers how developments in telephone communication have changed the social landscape in an urban area, namely the university town of Buea in Cameroon. The historical development of voice communication and the use of the telephone in the colonial era and its post-colonial development have recently culminated in the rapid introduction of the mobile phone. The revolution of the...

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4. The mobile phone, ‘modernity’ and change in Khartoum, Sudan

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pp. 69-91

This chapter considers the impact and appropriation of the mobile phone in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, by focusing on the social and cultural processes that accompany it. Central to our argument are local interpretations and meanings attributed to the mobile phone. These new dynamics and debates involve topics as diverse as morality and landscape, family ties and linguistic puns. Through this wide...

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5. Trading places in Tanzania: Mobility and marginalization at a time of travel-saving technologies

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pp. 92-109

This chapter explores everyday socio-economic interaction at a time of travel-saving technologies and looks at the use of mobile phones among workers in Tanzania’s domestic tomato and potato trade. The business communication of Kamwene Sanga, a trader based at Dar es Salaam’s Kariakoo municipal market, is used as a case study. However, as a wholesaler, he is unusual because he does not have a mobile...

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6. Téléphonie mobile. L’appropriation du sms par une « société de l’oralité »

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pp. 110-124

Le téléphone portable a connu depuis son arrivée en Afrique un développement spectaculaire. Une telle situation serait due au fait que son usage s’adapte au contexte de la “culture de l’oralité” qui a cours dans les sociétés africaines. Au Burkina Faso cependant, on constate que, contrairement à cette assertion, l’utilisation du SMS qui fait appel à l’écrit prend de l’ampleur dans toutes les couches de la...

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7. The healer and his phone: Medicinal dynamics among the Kapsiki/Higi of North Cameroon

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pp. 125-133

Haman Tizhé is his name and he is an important man among healers. His present position came about from a complicated life history. Growing up in Roufta, one of the outlying Kapsiki villages, he was a personal friend of the ´prince´, the son of Djoda, who was the Lamido (Fulbe chief of the district) at the time. When he was about twelve, he became involved in a brawl and threw a stone at a certain Bereme...

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8. The mobility of a mobile phone: Examining ‘Swahiliness’ through an object’s biography

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pp. 134-150

Thousands of mobile phones, mobile-phone accessories, SIM cards and top-up vouchers.... In Aggrey about a hundred shops sell mobile phones and items connected to their usage and appropriation. Most of the shops, being only a few square metres, have a glass cabinet at the front displaying mobile phones, with one lying next to the other. Different brands in different rows, arranged by price or the length...

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9. Could connectivity replace mobility? An analysis of Internet café use patterns in Accra, Ghana

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pp. 151-170

International mobility is a privilege unevenly distributed among the world’s population. I was reminded of this reality again and again when conversations with young Internet users in Accra, Ghana turned towards travel experiences, applications (accepted or denied) for travel visas to the US or Europe, money lost to ‘connection men’ who claimed to have back-door contacts at the embassies, and any number of

List of authors

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pp. 171-173

Back Cover

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p. bc-bc


E-ISBN-13: 9789956579143
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956558537

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2009