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Being Available and Reachable

New Media and Cameroonian Transnational Sociality

Primus Mbeanwoah Tazanu

Publication Year: 2012

The book investigates what have become of Cameroonian transnational family and friendship ties in the age of the mobile phone and the internet that make people readily available and reachable. Most theoretical literature states that these tools of sociality cement transnational social relationships through instantaneous interaction. To capture the different experiences and impressions on the significance of these media in easing communication for migrants and non-migrants, Tazanu draws on ethnographic accounts based on his fieldwork in Freiburg (Germany) and Buea (Cameroon). He argues that it is mainly the migrants who maintain or are expected to maintain ties with non-migrants back in Cameroon through calls and material support. The main finding of the study is that cell phones and the internet have facilitated discontents, 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 distanciation are the high expectations and sometimes contradictory motives for instant virtual interaction. Non-migrantsí accounts suggest that direct availability and reachability should lead to uninterrupted transnational interaction and also that the cultural practices of remittances from migrants are easily requested and coordinated. Such motives are generally contrary to migrantsí wishes, willingness or ability to support friends and families in Cameroon. These unexpected outcomes arising from rapid speed of interaction questions the advantages that are often associated with instant sociality across space and time. The finding is a call for the cultural background and life-world experiences of media users to be taken into consideration when theorising the significance of information technology in the debate on media globalisation.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. iii-vi

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Acknowledgement

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pp. vii-viii

I am deeply indebted to several people who have supported my studies in one way or the other. I sincerely thank the following people: My advisors Prof. Dr. Judith Schlehe and Prof. Dr. Till Förster, my parents and siblings Francis Fuanyi Tazanu, Beatrice Anyinkeng, Felicity Foanyi, Adolf Atabongafac, ...

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Summary

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pp. ix-x

The book investigates what it means to be directly available and reachable for Cameroonians who use mobile phones and to a lesser extent, the internet, to keep in touch with friends and families across borders. Most theoretical literature states that these tools of sociality cement transnational social ties ...

List of Acronyms

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pp. xi-xii

Location of Field Sites

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pp. xiii-xvi

List of figures

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pp. xvii-xviii

Introduction to Being Available and Reachable

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pp. xix-xxvii

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Chapter I: Ethnographic Background

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pp. 1-24

The ethnographic chapter describes social relationships within a historical context of recorded migration and the history of the telephone and internet in Cameroon. This migration background pays detailed attention on social ties between people who stayed behind and those who left the hinterlands to work in western ...

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Chapter II: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

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pp. 25-34

Migrants and non-migrants have always kept ties through letters, recorded tapes, hand mails, verbal messages, the telephone and the internet (see Pelican 2011:170; Ardener et al. 1960:241-242; Schiller et al 1995:51; Mahler 2001). Unlike letters, tapes and hand mails, the new media especially the mobile phone ...

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Chapter III: Methodology

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pp. 35-56

This chapter presents the methodology of the study and my experiences as a researcher. The first five months (mid November 2008 to late March 2009) of my studies in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Freiburg, were devoted to gathering relevant literature on transnational ties mediated ...

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Chapter IV: Sensory Experiences and Selected Practices of Cross-Border Sociality

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pp. 57-100

Being instantly available and reachable across borders was generally seen as a positive development in relationships both in Buea and Freiburg. Such appreciation of the new media confirms similar studies that have focused on the instrumentality of new ICTs in easing communication between migrants and non-migrants ...

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Chapter V: New Media Technology and Sociality

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pp. 101-136

It is true only to a certain extent when participants claimed that their preference of the mobile phone in maintaining the relationships is influenced by feelings of instantaneity facilitated by this medium. There is also the media technology aspect which has implications on the choice of the media, the spaces of sociality, ...

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Chapter VI: Visual Imagery, Virtuality and Trans-border Imaginations

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pp. 137-162

Even though the study aims at revealing Cameroonian relationships mediated by the mobile phone and internet, people’s experiences and impressions might not be fully understood if taken out of the context of other media sources and the ongoing processes of imaginations. Field accounts revealed that visual imagery, ...

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Chapter VII: Social Closeness, Distance and Discontent

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pp. 163-198

Fundamental to the understanding of this chapter is the assumption that the new communication media foster social closeness. More precisely, does being easily available and reachable through the new ICT guarantee social closeness or that relationships between migrants and non-migrants are easily maintained? ...

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Chapter VIII: New Media and Material Expression of Transnational Social Ties

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pp. 199-254

The material dimension of Cameroonian mediated transnational social relationships expressed in the form of remittances is not an ignorable topic considering the centrality of these remittances in binding, neutralising or distancing ties. I pay particular attention on the financial aspect of remittances, ...

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Chapter IX: Conclusion and Suggestions

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pp. 255-268

Earlier migration theories assumed that migrants are destined for uncompromising integration into the host societies and would cut all ties with their places of origin (Handlin 1973[1951]; Takaki 1993. Quoted in Schiller et al 1995:48). Put differently, migration was misconceived as “a one-way journey from one place to another” ...

References

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pp. 269-290

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956727223
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956727186

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2012