Accepted paper:

People making calls; call making people: relationships between mobile phones, (young) bodies and persons in Sub-Saharan Africa


Kate Hampshire (Durham University)
Gina Porter (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the complex, contingent and often contradictory relationships between young people (in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa) and mobile phones. Phone-based communication has been both transformed by, and transforming of, (young) bodies and persons, with implications for wellbeing.

Paper long abstract:

The rapid expansion of mobile telephony across Sub-Saharan Africa has penetrated almost every aspect of life. Drawing on a combination of narrative accounts and survey data from 24 study sites in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa, we explore the ways in which phone-based communication has been transformed by, and transforming of, young people (aged 9-25 years) in an array of different social, economic, political and cultural circumstances. Mobile phones are highly valued by almost all the young people we encountered, and phone-mediated connections are becoming an important means through which personhood is produced and managed. Yet the relationships between (young) persons, bodies and phones are complex, contingent and often fraught with contradiction and ambiguity: phones may threaten, as well as help to engender, both personal and bodily integrity. We discuss a range of examples, from phone-mediated healing to the risk of phone-related violence (physical, emotional and spiritual), and explore the implications of some of these complexities and contradictions for young people's health and wellbeing.

panel P28
ICTs, biopolitics and health: making and unmaking bodies and persons in a world of globalised telecommunications