ISBN 9789956728763
Pages 210
Dimensions 244 x 170 mm
Published 2013
Publisher Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon
Format Paperback

Side@Ways: Mobile Margins and the Dynamics of Communication in Africa

edited by Mirjam de Bruijn, Francis B. Nyamnjoh, Inge Brinkman

Marginality does not mean isolation. In Africa where people are permanently on the move in search, inter alia, of a ‘better elsewhere’, marginality means disconnection to obvious possibilities and the invisibility of the myriad connections that make life possible for the ordinarily sidestepped. This book is about the workings of networks of the mobile in Africa, a continent usually associated with the ‘global shadows’ of the world. How do changes in the possibilities for communication, with the recent hype of mobile technology, influence the social and economic dynamics in Africa’s mobile margins? To what extent is the freedom associated with new Information and Communication Technologies reality or disillusion for people dwelling in the margins? Are ordinary Africans increasingly Side@Ways? How social are these emergent Side@Ways? Contributions to answering these and related questions are harvested from ethnographic insights by team members of the WOTRO funded ‘Mobile Africa revisited’ research programme hosted by the African Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.

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“The editors have produced a volume that instructs us in the nuances and ambiguities surrounding the impact of mobile phones in Africa. By stressing the marginal, they expose the creativity of mobility; by drawing our attention to new connectivities they reveal ambivalent images of networks and possibilities of communication. The policing and control of mobile margins may have more baleful consequences. No easy generalities emerge and this volume tells us why. A must read.”

Michael Rowlands, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Material Culture, University College London

“From voluntary migrants and refugees to traders, foot messengers and university students, Side@ways takes the reader on a journey to Africa’s mobile margins. Focused upon the everyday use of mobile phones, the authors’ historically situated and nuanced accounts counter many assumptions about connection and disconnection inherent in mobile phone use and, ultimately, the treatment of the mobile phone as Africa’s latest panacea. Conceptually novel and empirically rich, this edited volume is an exemplar of the insights ethnographic approaches contribute to our understanding of the digital revolution.”

Heather A. Horst, Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow and Co-Director, Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT University, Australia

About the Editors

Mirjam de Bruijn

Mirjam de Bruijn is Professor of Contemporary History and Anthropology of Africa, at Leiden University (The Netherlands). As an anthropologist she has done much interdisciplinary research on the interrelationship between agency, marginality, mobility, communication and technology in West and Central Africa, especially Cameroon, Chad and Mali, leading major research projects on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). In this connection she published numerous articles in scholarly journals and edited the volumes The Social Life of Connectivity in Africa (with Rijk van Dijk, Palgrave Mac Millan 2012) and Side@Ways: Marginality and Communication in Africa (with Inge Brinkman and Francis Nyamnjoh, ASC Leiden and Langaa 2013). 

Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Francis B. Nyamnjoh joined the University of Cape Town in August 2009 as Professor of Social Anthropology from the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Dakar, Senegal, where he served as Head of Publications from July 2003 to July 2009. He has taught sociology, anthropology and communication studies at universities in Cameroon and Botswana, and has researched and written extensively on Cameroon and Botswana. In October 2012 he received a University of Cape Town Excellence Award for “Exceptional Contribution as a Professor in the Faculty of Humanities”. He is recipient of the “ASU African Hero 2013” annual award by the African Students Union, Ohio University, USA. He is: a B1 rated Professor and Researcher by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF); a Fellow of the Cameroon Academy of Science since August 2011; a fellow of the African Academy of Science since December 2014; a fellow of the Academy of Science of South Africa since 2016; and Chair of the Editorial Board of the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press since January 2011. His scholarly books include: Africa’s Media, Democracy and the Politics of Belonging (2005); Insiders and Outsiders: Citizenship and Xenophobia in Contemporary Southern Africa (2006); “C'est l'homme qui fait l'homme”: Cul-de-Sac Ubuntu-ism in Côte d'Ivoire (2015); and #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa (2016).

Inge Brinkman

Inge Brinkman has been attached to the African Studies Centre since April 2008 while she carries out research into communication technologies and social relations in Angola. She is engaged in studying the historical relations between literacy/orality, elite-formation and the introduction of the mobile phone in Northern Angola, and coordinating a case-study on returnees, 'development' and new ICT in south-east Angola. These case-studies form part of a larger programme, entitled 'Mobile Africa Revisited, aimed at studying the relations between mobile telephony and social hierarchies.

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