Modern Africa (Dec 2015)

New Media and Expectations of Social Closeness: The Mobile Phone and Narratives of “Throwing People Away” in Cameroonian Transnational Social Relationships

  • Primus M. Tazanu

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 3, no. 2


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In studies on transnationalism, mobile phones have gained prominent attention as tools that maintain relationships in the event of migration. They have transformed transnational sociality from procedural to a daily event all at the control of the actors who, for example, no longer relies on the post office for letters. Mobile phones provide avenues for social closeness and intimacy, impact social identities, facilitate participation in events dis-embedded from a locality, and help in the expression of belonging and solidarity across national borders. Despite these positive facets, the technology could become a source of discomfort as seen in this contribution, which revolves around the unmet expectations of utilising the device to sustain transnational social closeness. Drawn from a multi-sited study conducted among Cameroonians in Germany and Cameroon, the article demonstrates how the consciousness of the possibilities of direct communication negatively influences an actors’ interpretation of silences and non-communication. In this context, the technology rather contributes to frustration, uncertainty and disappointments in transnational social bonds.