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Sociality Revisited? The Use of the Internet and Mobile Phones in Urban Cameroon

Bettina Anja Frei

Publication Year: 2013

This book draws on the perspectives of non-migrants and urban youth in Bamenda, in the Northwest region of Cameroon, as well as on the views of Cameroonian migrants in Switzerland, to explore the meaning and role of New Media in the negotiation of sociality in transnational migration. New Media facilitated connectedness serve as a privileged lens through which Cameroonians, home and away, scrutinise and mediate sociality. In this rich ethnography, Bettina Frei describes how the internet and mobile phones are adopted by migrants and their non-migrant counterparts in order to maintain transnational relationships, and how the specific medialities of these communication technologies in turn impact on transnational sociality. Contrary to popular presumptions that New Media are experienced as mainly connecting and enabling, this study reveals that in a transnational context in particular, New Media serve to mediate tensions in transnational social ties. The expectations of being connected go hand in hand with an awareness of social and geographical distance and separation.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-3


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

A range of people have contributed in different ways to the writing of this book. I would like to thank following people: My advisors Prof. Dr. Till Förster, and Prof. Dr. Judith Schlehe. My family for their patience and support: my spouse Tarek Moussalli, my mother Marianne Frei, my sister Maja Frei, my friends Bettina Vogt, Tabith Ruepp, Cigdem Scarpatetti-Böke, ...

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pp. ix-x

In my thesis I have examined the meaning of New Media for transnational migration, and how the use of New Media is interrelated with negotiations of sociality. Bringing these two views together, I have examined how the mediality of New Media effects on transnational sociality. ...

List of acronyms

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pp. xi-xii

List of figures

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pp. xiii-xiv

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1. Introduction, ethnographic background and theoretical framework

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pp. 1-64

In this introduction chapter I will first relate to the relevance of research and give a short insight about my fieldwork. Then I will introduce the field site and look into the ethnographic background, and the history and situation of mobility and of New Media1 in Bamenda in order to give the reader an idea of the developments and recent transformations in this field. ...

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2. Anxiety of mobility, New Media use, and imaginations of a “good life”

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pp. 65-116

I have already highlighted the pervasiveness of New Media such as the internet and mobile phones in Bamenda. They play an important role in people’s lives and their practices of social networking and their felt connection to “the world”. Practices of New Media use and mobility are spatial practices, which have several dimensions: ...

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3. New Media, their materiality, and their contribution to social spaces: between potential and local conditions

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pp. 117-174

As I have tried to show in the previous chapter, societal imaginaries and the perception of space are closely interlinked with practices of the appropriation of physical space, such as practices of physical mobility as migration movements, and virtual mobility as the use of time and space transcending the media of communication and information. ...

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4. Practices of social networking – face-to-face and mediated social ties and support

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pp. 175-230

In this chapter, I will look in particular into practices of social networking and access to social capital and support through these social networks, which are pursued on both a local face-to-face and a translocal mediated level. I will introduce different categories of social ties, and examine how notions of sociality and solidarity transform from local face-to-face to mediated social ties. ...

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5. Physically distant but emotionally close – transforming qualities of social ties

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pp. 231-288

Practices of socializing and social networking, which I have described in the previous chapter, are interrelated with people’s dealing with space. In the current chapter I will look at how social relations are transforming under conditions of physical absence, as well as how feelings of social and emotional closeness are negotiated in mediated communication. ...

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6. Practices of connecting and disconnecting – negotiations of social relations between migrants and non-migrants

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pp. 289-346

Prevalent imaginaries and imageries of “the West” and “a life abroad” and a certain opacity related to experiences and life realities of migrants can lead to conflicting views and even tensions between communication partners, between those abroad and those “at home” in Cameroon. ...

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7. Self-reflection and fieldwork methods

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pp. 347-394

This chapter is dedicated to fieldwork methods and self-reflection. Even though the researcher is always a part of the field, a fact which contributes to the “outcome” of research, regarding the topic addressed in this book, this is even more strongly the case: my research and my own being are interrelated in many ways. ...

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8. Liveness, mobility and New Media use – between dislocation and feelings of closeness

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pp. 395-456

In this book I have described how young New Media users deal with space - with distance and closeness. Thereby, I would see the configuration and practices of New Media of communication and information as the internet and mobile phones as both prerequisites and outcome of transnational connections and relations. ...


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pp. 457-499

Internet sources

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pp. 499-502


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pp. 503-534

Back cover

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p. 551-551

E-ISBN-13: 9789956790760
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956728411

Page Count: 548
Publication Year: 2013