Accepted paper:

The diversity of human relationships including new "tribal" awareness in Kenya: the influence of the internet access through mobile phones


Yutaka Yoshida (Meiji Gakuin University)

Paper short abstract:

It is said the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya was caused by existing "tribal" conflicts. Yet, "tribal" awareness became more obvious afterwards through the influence of the internet. I explore what roles mobile phones are playing in the construction of human relationships among Nandi people.

Paper long abstract:

After the 2007 presidential elections in Kenya, serious violence broke out in urban areas especially in Rift Valley Province. Media reports attributed the cause of this violence to "tribal" conflicts. But, according to people in the Province, "tribal" antagonism was not necessarily the cause. Interestingly, it was post-crisis that "tribal" awareness became more conspicuous. Moreover, some people transferred the emphasis of their identities from the "Kalenjin" group - formed in the 1950s political movement - to "Nandi", one of the "sub-tribes" of "Kalenjin". How is this kind of "tribal" awareness constructed? Addressing this question, I focus on the way mobile phones are used in everyday life. Mobile phone usage has become widespread, creating a new information environment. Especially in urban areas, mobile phones are increasingly used to access the internet for information, including the origin, history, religion, and culture of one's "tribes". Also, in most cases, such information is shared more anonymously or impersonally over the internet, or kept to oneself, rather than being shared with family and neighbours, or those in direct contact. Contrastingly, in rural areas mobile phones are used mainly for calling family and friends. We can think of their relationships via mobile phones as an extension of existing face-to-face relationships in everyday life. Employing ethnographic description, this paper questions how, in these conditions, the nature of trust based on human relationships among the "tribal" community is changing within the same "tribe"? How will this affect people's mutual alienation and trust in everyday life? Furthermore, what will occur with such diversity of human relationships?

panel G20
Trust in super-diversity