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Message in a Mobile

Mixed-Messages, Tales of Missing and Mobile Communities at the University of Khartoum

Siri Lamoureaux

Publication Year: 2011

This detailed, meticulous ethnographic study on mobile phone use among Nuba students at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, distinguishes itself from other studies by taking a focused look at the linguistic content of mobile phone interactions via text-messaging, portraying it as a site for the expression of personalized and affective language. While men and women appear to be equally aggressive consumers and producers of text-message poetry, women are formally discouraged in using the phone for relations that go beyond the publicly acceptable norms of ëkeeping in touchí and making arrangements. Nonetheless, women use it for such purposes and many manage it discreetly, showing how this technology can serve to subvert discursive norms on gender and marriage. The mobile phone in Sudan enhances individual autonomy over interactions, making possible the extension and creation of social spaces. It simultaneously enlarges private space and trespasses into public space. Poetic themes and language, previously limited to elite producers ñ those both more literate and who had control over mass media domains, radio and newspapers ñ are exposed to anonymous recipients, who draw from, copy or forward them in continuous circulation, thereby staking a claim in the public sphere. Similarly, the mobile phone serves as a site for the exercise of several layers of identity in negotiation, and reflects or creates alternative identities and the contestation of existing discourses, communities in physical space and notions of belonging.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

List of Pictures

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pp. vii

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pp. viii-x

This is one of my favourite text messages in the corpus that I collected. It is personified, meaning it takes on human qualities, and would better represent me than a few written words. I would like to think it could carry me to all those that I would like to thank personally and show my appreciation to for their support, ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-22

This Arabic poem, which appeared in a text message1 sent to one of my students at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, carries an illocutionary force, by performing the meaning expressed in the message content itself. It was explained to mean that a person may be absent with his body, the message,2 while not as good as the person, ...

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2. Memories of Mekwar: Historical identities and student diversity

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pp. 23-35

Mekwar is the pre-colonial name for the town in Sudan now called Sennar, on the Blue Nile south of Wad Medani, where this student is from. The name Mekwar conjures up various local myths related to the Turco-Egyptian time period, one being that Mekwar was the name of a southerner who made his camp ...

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3. Discourse and identity: Texting in the Sudanese communicative ecology

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pp. 36-52

This piece of SMS data represents one of the most common expressions not only in text messages, but in spoken communication, and is said and heard multiple times daily by most all Sudanese people. Unlike its English translation, its use is not limited to intimate utterances between close friends or lovers, ...

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4. Nuba and urban identity: The discourse of resistance and the practice of integration

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pp. 53-72

Joseph Kuku, a 23 year-old student at the University of Khartoum, was the recipient of the above text message sent by Intesar, a female friend at Sudan University. Joseph and Intesar knew each other from childhood. They are Krongo1, one of over fifty “tribes” from the Nuba Mountains, but both grew up in Dongola ...

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5. Text message poetry (shi'ar iliktrooni): The broader effects of personal practices

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pp. 73-105

This message was sent to me by Alessandro, one of my informants and friends, as a way of saying goodbye, just a few days before I left Sudan. Alessandro Hassan Kumsour is a 23 year-old student at the University of Khartoum. Both of his parents come from Temein, a village near the town of Dilling in the Nuba Mountains, ...

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6. Love in the time of mobility: Careful appropriations and courtship negotiations

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pp. 106-135

The exchange between Randa and Bahar above is a blatant example of the way that young people in Sudan are defying the Islamic moral Discourse on unmarried people and the prescribed rules of courtship with the privacy afforded by the mobile phone. Randa provided these examples to me, but did not return for an interview. ...

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7. Being "modern": From Shakespeare to chat room literacy

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pp. 136-166

This text message was sent from Fellah El Sharif, an 18 year-old student of English and linguistics at the University of Khartoum to Hana, a classmate of hers. If I didn’t know its origin, however, I would have guessed its author to be a teenager from Southern California rather than Sudan. Fellah’s mastery of American youth slang ...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 167-175

It is now six months since I have returned from Sudan and the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims around the world fast during the daylight hours. It is a custom which unites people in practice at a global level, although its exact dates are determined by moon-examining mullahs ...

Appendix 1: Transcription conventions

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pp. 176-177

Appendix 2: List of terms

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pp. 178


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pp. 179-185

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956726455
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956726899

Page Count: 196
Illustrations: b/w
Publication Year: 2011