New publication: Distance/Relation - Doing Fieldwork with Social Media

Nanna Schneidermann's article Distance/Relation- Doing Fieldwork with Social Media has recently been published in the journal Forum For Development Studies as part of a special issue on Qualitative Methodologies in Development Studies, edited by Hilde Arntsen and Anne Waldrop. The article is available for free download for a period of time.

As social media become part of everyday lives across the world, ethnographers are confronted with questions about how to approach the field ‘online’ and what kinds of data social media might generate in research projects that do not have media as their field of inquiry. Based on 16 months of fieldwork among young music artists in Uganda, this article demonstrates how doing fieldwork with social media can shape the research process, both in and out of the field. Drawing from philosopher Martin Buber’s ideas about relation and distance, I argue that though the twofold movement between distance and relation is conditional for human sociality, the shifting tension between these two modes are urgently present in ethnographic fieldwork, and set in motion in new ways, when the field moves online.


Gulu media.png

NEW PUBLICATION a media ban and religious competition in Kinshasa

Katrien Pype's chapter on "Nzete Ekauka versus the Catholic Church. Religious Competition, Media Ban and The Virgin Mary in Contemporary Kinshasa." has been published in Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa, eds. F. Becker, J. Cabrita and M. Rodet, Cambridge African Studies Series, Ohio University Press, 2018, pp. 202-228.

Since 1986, Brother Raphael Minga Kwete has been receiving divine messages from the Virgin Mary, Jesus, the saints, as well as Catholic leaders such as Padre Pio and Francis of Assisi in his compound commonly known as "Nzete Ekauka" ("the dessicated tree"). During the 1990s, this compound was the arena of fervent prayer gatherings where Catholic clergy, intellectuals, politicians, and even figures of the local music scene could be seen praying. Nowadays, the compound is nearly empty. The exodus started in the early 2000s, and today only a few dozen people (mainly women) continue to attend daily prayers, donate money, and spread the Virgin’s messages more widely. An informal media ban was issued by the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. The Nzete case-study will situate media presence, production, and aesthetics within a larger field of competition between orthodox Catholicism and more popular forms of engagement with Catholic spirits. In addition, the idea of the Virgin Mary as a spirit who addresses the Congolese through the prophet, draws our attention to the transformations urban religiosity has undergone in the late postcolonial era, and to the enduring role of Catholic clergy in urban Africa.


a pamphlet produced by the prophet Frère Raphael Minga-Kwete (picture taken in 2012)

a pamphlet produced by the prophet Frère Raphael Minga-Kwete (picture taken in 2012)

Participation in Electronic Modernity - Reflections Based on Ethnographic Research in Kinshasa

On May 9 2018, Katrien Pype delivered a key note at the Participatory Videofilm Festival #1 (organized by researchers at the University of Ghent, Belgium).

She introduced three different ways of alternative forms of "participation", beyond the act of filming and performing. First, her ethnographic research on the production of evangelizing television serials has drawn her attention to the fact that, if people act and watch filmed drama, this can have spiritual consequences. Participation in electronic modernity here also includes participation of one's soul, of spirits, and of invisible powers. Second, her research on political subjectivities in the Congolese blogosphere has pushed her to reconsider acts such as clicking and remediating digital content. Digital citationality, so she argues, connects to the emergence of the political subject in similar fashion as citing other people's voices construes the social person in local pedogagical understandings. Finally, participation by proxy, as informed by her research on elder people's usage of mobile phones (they often ask others to send text messages or make phone calls on their behalf) can often be the only way in which people can participate in electronic modernity while respecting local parameters of seniority and bigmanity.

The Health-Security Nexus and new media in an informal settlement in Cape Town

At the moment I am doing fieldwork in Overcome Heights an informal settlement in Cape Town of around 4.500 households. This builds on fieldwork from 2016/2017 where I examined health practices in relation to new media with a focus on maternal and infant health. A central finding was that women experience a close relation between health and security in poor and marginalized areas, but also that they experience these relations differently – and here ethnic backgrounds matter. I have teamed up with Steffen Jensen from DIGNITY institute in Denmark, and Capetonian anthropologist Shari Thanjan, to delve further into these matters. Together with community leaders in one of the few multiethnic informal settlements in Cape Town we are following 15 local families of diverse backgrounds over a period of 8 weeks. Three weeks into the project, some interesting links emerge between health, security and new media: Control of public space and crime prevention are central concerns for residents. The messaging platform WhatsApp has revolutionized how community policing and neighborhood watches organize themselves, and is further a resource to call on help in situations where residents do not expect the police to drive out.

New media plays a role in the social control of the area as well.  While a number of suburban areas near Overcome Heights have Facebook “community groups”, an old South African new media monster continues to rear its head. The public Russia-based chat website Ou Toilet started as a teen chat site in the Western Cape around 2008 and it became highly publicized, at times banned, and generally despised before it apparently vanished from view of mainstream society. But in the poor and marginalized areas of Cape Town’s southside, the site continues to be a place where the most vile – and sometimes true – accusations are made about sex, drugs, gangs and politics. 

For some new media can it themselves be compromising health-security concerns: having a phone makes one a target for robbery and theft. Being on social media, especially for young girls, makes one vulnerable and accessible to potentially predatory men and their seductive tactics in chats and Facebook.

While new media is often celebrated as catalysts and drivers of development, only hampered by lack of access and infrastructure, it is worth taking seriously how poor and marginalized urban residents experience new media as more complex phenomena, and looking at strategies of avoidance or experiences of harm.



Blogpost on Somatosphere: Texting Like a State

Nanna Schneidermann has a new piece out on the medical anthropology platform

The piece asks: What does making a new life look like from the perspective of a mobile phone? And, inspired by James Scott's seminal work, delves into the promises of M-health as a project of governance in South Africa.

Read more here. 

#watercrisis and Day Zero in New South African politics

Cape Town is running out of water. The region of the Western Cape is experiencing the worst drought since 1933. Since I left Cape Town in June last year human and natural disaster has been looming on the all too bright and sunny horizon. They call it Day Zero. The day the dam levels in the city’s water reserves will be too low to provide safe water for the more than 5 million residents in the city.

Currently the city is at a Level 6 B water restriction scheme. This means that each resident can use 50 liters of water per day. A five minute shower uses just around 40 liters. Flushing the toilet somewhere between 6 and 12 liters. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down,” are the new guidelines. In some areas of Cape Town the water has been intermittently shut off, for hours or days, without prior notification to residents, apart from the publication of the Level 6 B water restrictions. Commercial and agricultural properties must reduce water use with 45 percent and 60 percent respectively, compared with pre-drought usage.

The calls to defeat Day Zero is printed on posters, broadcasted on the radio and in television ads. Airb’n’b offers free cancellation to tourists who decide to stay at home rather than burden Cape Town with more water users. I like to listen to the Fine Music Radio, and here the messages to use less water seemed tailor made for a middle-class classical music loving audience: “A green lawn was a symbol of pride, now a sign of squander.” The ward councilor in my area posts on Facebook and twitter about sustainable solutions like collecting “grey” water (rain water, water from showers etc.) for recycling under the hashtag #ourresilience. On day Zero, the city government claims, 200 water collection points will be set up across the city, where residents can collect 25 liters per person. Observers argue that this scenario is completely unrealistic and will lead to war-like conditions around the taps. In the informal settlement where I do fieldwork, it doesn’t make much of a difference, though, says the community activist Mary. Most residents are picking up their water at communal taps anyway.


Political Day Zero

This kind of natural disaster by climate change is one that has been creeping in over many years. Rainfall has decreased in the region. Maybe in another time and place the prospect of a city of five million people running dry would warrant some sort of state of emergency, and international intervention. But in Cape Town life just seems to be going on as usual. Meanwhile, some of the decision makers that could have intervened with the #watercrisis have their own crises to worry about. In the City of Cape town the ruling party Democratic Alliance is trying to dethrone their own mayor Patricia De Lille with criminal charges of forgery and corruption. Word on the street is that the DA (typically attracting White and Coloured voters) want to replace her with a Black African front figure to broaden their base in a city receiving hundreds of mainly black south African migrant settlers every day. On a national level the country is facing a bizarre gridlock. The president Jacob Zuma (and other top ranking officials) are accused of state capture. Their party, ANC, Nelson Mandela’s party, a few weeks ago overthrew Zuma as president of the party, and elected his vice president Cyril Ramaphosa to lead the party. The obvious result would be for the president of the country to step down, as he officially lost his political legitimacy. This, however, did not happen. Last week the president of the country’s ruling party was set to deliver “the state of the union” but it was cancelled. Who should deliver the speech?  The president of the party or the president of the country who was elected as ANC’s leader? Negotiations have been going on within ANC to organize Zuma’s exit, but they seem gridlocked, At the charity shop yesterday me and the ladies complained that there are no credible parties left to vote for in this country. We hold our breath, waiting for the next disaster. Is South African politics headed towards a Day Zero as well?



Yesterday was eerie like that, everything seemed to hold its breath. Early in the evening the thunder started rumbling over the mountains, with white flashes dancing across the skies. Dennis and I had clothes hanging on the line outside. For them not to get wet, we rushed out to collect them in woven baskets. Then the downpour came. Heavy drops soon became a blanket of warm water. We made tea. Listened to the sound of the downpour on the roof of the old house. A sudden realization made us jump up and grab all buckets, containers and bowls: The water from the roof would be gathering in the drainpipes, flowing into the ground in the yard. The drain under the kitchen window had its last part amputated to make space for a large storage box underneath it. Laboring with great urgency our buckets and basins found new places under pipes and leaks. Drenched and happy we sat back at the kitchen table with our tea, and Dennis asked me to turn on the 6 o’clock news. “I think they recalled Zuma,” he said. ANC recalled Zuma’ appointment as president of South Africa. The grounds for the recall remain murky, and many other questions are left unanswered within and without the party. This morning Dennis says that Facebook says that the Guptas, the rich family involved in Zuma’s state capture case, were raided this morning and that several arrests have been made.

Among Capetonians the rain and the recall were linked specks of hope. On Facebook a photo of a man praying in the rain, surrounded by cars, circulated. Apparently, he had stopped his car in the middle of the hectic Cape Town evening traffic to pray and thank God for the rain. 

Searching for Innocence at AAA

At the 116th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington DC the resident postdoc of the MediAfrica project contributed a poster entitled Coming of Age in Cape Town – searching for innocence in difficult transitions. The poster shows how visual narratives of youthhood in my own ethnographic material in crucial ways coincide with the stories told in two recent movies about coming of age in cape town, made by local film companies, and that they challenge how we conceptualize “youth” as a social category of transition.

Youth is conventionally a transition from pure childhood to mature adulthood. But in the disillusioned New South Africa it is the other way around: coming of age is a search for innocence. During 9 months of fieldwork among poor black families in Cape Town I collected video diaries from 19 young parents. Here the diaries of Matt and Jess are juxtaposed with images from the local feature films Noem My Skollie and Tess. The pixelated intimacy of Matt and Jessica's diaries contrast with the professional and clean footage from the movies. But these stories of coming of age told by Capetonians in 2017 have a common telos. They depict childhood as ruined by abuse and violence and transitions to adulthood as a search for purity and new beginnings. Aspirations for respectable adulthood are shaped by the experience of transitions that do not offer the healing and transformation promised. 

Thanks goes out to, Matt, Jess, Meg Rickards and David Max Brown for sharing stories, photos and videos.


MediAfrica at ASA 60th Annual Meeting in Chicago

The MediAfrica team was left, right and center at this year's African Studies Association's 60th annual meeting in Chicago.

Katrien Pype chaired and presented in a double panel on Techno-Economic Challenges to Humanism, in dialogue with Achille Mbembe (and last year's Abiola lecture) as well as a series of ground-breaking scholars in African studies. Several of the papers spoke to the role of new media and digital technologies in shaping circulation of goods, ideas, values and people across the continent. 

Nanna Schneidermann and Katrien Pype discussing project plans over lunch

Nanna Schneidermann and Katrien Pype discussing project plans over lunch

Jo Helle-Valle, Ardis Storm-Mashisen and Nanna Schneidermann presented papers in the panel Gender, Concerns and New Media Practices, each in their way beginning to unpack ideas and material generated during fieldwork with the MediAfrica project. 

New media on new media. Jo Helle-Valle presents research from Botswana

New media on new media. Jo Helle-Valle presents research from Botswana

Dazed and Confused: International Population Conference 2017 from a newcomer’s perspective.

Guest post by Shari Thanjan

I have attended my first international conference as a researcher. The International Population Conference took place in Cape Town this year. The conference is hosted by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) and happens every four years. The conference provides social scientists from all over the world the opportunity to come together and share their research on population trends and issues. One would think that this is every researcher’s dream - an international platform to share all the hard work, sweat and tears that often goes into research process. Sharing, learning and discussing brings up new networks and ideas. But it also left me doubtful about the point of doing research in the first place.

After doing six months of field work about maternal and child health and its relationship with new media, I decided to attend all the talks that I could find about the use of new media technologies in this field. There were some papers on social media and maternal and child health, mostly in local contexts from “the developed world”. There were no presentations about media and population issues or maternal health in the South Africa. Here  papers focused on maternal and child mortality. This was weird to me, after having been so focused on our own little research project for many months. The National Department of Health runs the first national mHealth program in Africa focused on maternal and child health, and fieldwork showed that media plays role in shaping the process of making new lives in South Africa. What seemed to me to be an obvious and important aspect of population issues was missing here.

A study done by Nzimande looked at family formations of the black South African population in the era of change. It found that “modernization” has led to growing acceptance of non-marital child-bearing. It also found that teenage mothers are unable to progress in South Africa. South Africa’s legislation is very protective over single mothers, but there is  a need for more policies that protect marriages, it was argued. In thinking about our own fieldwork among black pregnant women and new mothers in Cape Town, I wondered about what our interlocutors would say, if they where here. I thought of the grandmother whose only wish for her daughter was never to get married, to keep her financial and personal freedom. I thought of the teenage parents who stopped going to church or moved to a different neighbourhood when they started showing to avoid the moral judgement of their community. Sitting in a grand conference room in the centre of Cape Town, I felt a chasm between their world and the world of research, even though the people I studied lived only a few kilometers away.

Stats, stats and more stats. By the end of the week I couldn’t learn or know anymore. Looking around at my fellow conference attendees, it would seem they felt the same way. Verran (2012) argues that “In an era of evidence-based policy and governance through market mechanisms, measures and values speak to policy through designs that can be bought and sold.” This theory came to life where stats were the basis of each research problem. One really needs to walk away from these things and honestly think about how these papers effectively can affect policy change and improve lives. The research was all great with very interesting topics. But do the findings actually translate into action? The relationship between policy practise and knowledge practise is not a strong one at the moment. Belief in the bond between the two seems to have withered and reserachers are almost cynical about what their work “can do” in the world. Almost all papers revealed there is a gap in service delivery and somewhere, something is going wrong.

So then what?!

I left the conference feeling dazed and confused with too many numbers circulating in my head and can't even remember half of the findings.  The take home message for me is to always follow up on our findings and papers, try to get it into the right hands, so that all our sweat blood and tears move beyond conferences rooms and back into the lives of our participants.  This should be a promise we make to ourselves, and be more than just researchers, but rather agents of change in pretty trying times.






Verran,H. 2012. The changing lives of measures and values: From centre stage in the fading disciplinary society to pervasive background instrument in the emergent ‘control’ society. In The Sociological Review Monographs (eds) L. Adkins & C. Lury, 60-72. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
















Book launch

Letlhakeng book front page 20117.jpg

November 3rd 2017 the PI’s book “Histories of Letlhakeng village, Botswana” was handed over to various persons and institutions in Letlhakeng. It is the first book about this village’s historical roots. Of course, with few written sources, relying mostly on the memory of the old there are many stories, not one history. Added to this, history seems to become increasingly politicized in the village, as some envision having their own kgosi (chief) in the House of Chiefs in the capital. To that end history is a strong legitimizing force.

Letlhakeng book to library 2017.jpg

The picture shows the author handing over two copies to the local library. Copies were also given to the sub-district chief, the village chief, the deputy village chief, the local Council Secretary, and other persons who have contributed to the book.

Follow-up fieldwork in Botswana

The PI and dr. Storm-Mathisen are near completion of their second period of fieldwork in Botswana. Five weeks of intensive work, partly in Gaborone and partly out in Letlhakeng, Kweneng West.

Jacaranda bloom Gabs 2017.jpg

Even though only one and a half year has gone since the last field visit visible changes have taken place in the village. All the main roads in the village are now paved and street lighting is a striking visual change. It is claimed that this has made it safer for women to move around after dark.

Letlhakeng street light 2017.jpg

Of course, in a land with still unreliable electricity grid but unlimited access to sun rays these lights are solar-powered and light sensor regulated. Good technology!

Technology & Witchcraft - new publication on media cultures and religion in Kinshasa

Katrien Pype contributed a chapter to the open access edited volume on Pentecostalism and Witchcraft. Spiritual Warfare in Africa and Melanesia. Co-edited by Knut Rio, Melissa McCarthy, and Ruy Blanes. The full book is freely available here: 

Katrien's chapter, "Chapter 5 Branhamist Kindoki : Ethnographic Notes on Connectivity, Technology and Urban Witchcraft in Contemporary Kinshasa", explores the entanglements of theories of the occult and science, and technology. She explores the analytical value of "connectivity", the modality to connect with (social and spiritual) others in light of sociality in contemporary electronic modernity.

Visiting Scholar at Harvard University

In the Center of Knowledge: Widener Library in Harvard Yard

In the Center of Knowledge: Widener Library in Harvard Yard

This fall semester the MediAfrica postdoc fellow is visiting scholar at the Department for African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

The purpose of the stay is to write up papers and articles based on the recent fieldwork in Cape Town by drawing inspiration from the vibrant research community in Cambridge.

The first ten days in Boston have included lectures by Webb Keane, Arthur Kleinman and Michael Hertzfeld, workshops on nature-culture relations and on cash-transfers and new concepts of work in Southern Africa, meetings with Africanists at Boston University - and a dinner with James Ferguson. As this shameless name-dropping reflects, I have been warmly welcomed to the new research environment, and it is more than a little humbling to be right here in the "Center of Knowledge.”

MediAfrica colleague, professor Jean Comaroff is sponsoring professor for the research stay, and the fellowship is generously funded by HiOAs overseas studies grant. 

Jean Comaroff in conversation with James Ferguson at the African Studies Workshop

Jean Comaroff in conversation with James Ferguson at the African Studies Workshop

Summer of Postdoc: conferences, workshops and inspirations

Summer Snap: Team Urban Orders hanging out at the roof of Moesgård Museum

Summer Snap: Team Urban Orders hanging out at the roof of Moesgård Museum

There’s a time after a long fieldwork, which has always to me been a sort of lost time. What goes on is neither “collection of data,” nor “publishing”. It is difficult to count and account for it, and it is important. There is an invisible processing that goes on, in which the fieldwork material takes on a shape begins to make sense in an academic context. What actually happened? What was important here? What kinds of writing might come of this? A time to seek out inspiration and perhaps return to old knowings in new light.

In August I attended the Mega Seminar, the biannual conference for Danish Anthropologists as a kind of exiled member of the tribe. The conference theme was The End, leading to discussions on both how the people we work with live through and understand different kinds of endings, as well as the seemingly always imminent End of Anthropology as a discipline.

The following week I returned to Moesgård in Århus to meet with the transdisciplinary and international research group around Urban Orders. The project has set out to develop new ways of working with complex urban problems with a focus on what we have called urban orders  - "a dynamic regularity in the relationship between social life in the city and its physical environment, which has emerged without overall coordination, control or use of force". The URO group has held four URO labs, and I was involved in organizing the first Lab in Århus, two years ago. Returning to URO sparks inspiration for my current work the MediAfrica project, both on how to understand the context of motherhood in one of the most unequal cities in the world, and on how to collaborate and write together with other researchers.

Thinking about past and future projects with colleagues opened new doors in my heart and my mind, igniting the desire to start writing about the stories and experiences I have taken with me from South Africa. 


Sindre Bangstad lectures on public anthropology and the media at Aarhus University

Sindre Bangstad lectures on public anthropology and the media at Aarhus University

South Africa Media Survey

Over the last few months the South Africa branch of the MediAfrica project has been running a small survey on everyday media use. The survey was promoted on Facebook and via other social networks, and we had 250 respondents as well as many interesting comments on the project’s Facebook page.

In the coming months we will be trying to learn from the fascinating answers, analyze the data and compare and discuss with colleagues. Results will be shared in articles and papers, as well as in posts here on the website.

All those who completed the survey entered the draw to win a brand new Samsung tablet. Our winner was Karl from Cape Town, who is posing here with his new gadget.

A big thanks go to all those who took time to fill out the survey and shared their stories and experiences with us. 


chronotopes of media in Sub-Saharan Africa - Vokes and Pype (Ethnos, 2018)

Richard Vokes and Katrien Pype collected a special issue of the journal ETHNOS in which contributors propose ethnographies of electronic modernity in Africa. They also wrote the introduction to the special issue - it is supposed to be out in print in 2018, yet now, we already have access to the online ahead of print publication by clicking here

The four articles collected in the volume which trace the movements of media and persons from the bedrooms of young women in Nigerian Calabar (Juliet Gilbert), through the living rooms of Kinshasa’s elderly (Pype), to the taxis of rural Uganda (Vokes), and to the virtual spaces of a live radio show in Uganda (Florence Brisset-Foucault) – offer rich ethnographic case studies of the temporalizing and spatializing work that various kinds of new media (electronic and non electronic) are allowed to do by their users. In these particular locales, mobile phones and radio sets are extensively used to experiment with new, sometimes virtual, identities, to initiate and deepen social relationships, and to open up new realms of the past and present. These same objects also facilitate new dreams for a better future. 

The particular assemblage of a media object in a space and associated with a new experience of time encourages us to think with the concept of ‘chronotopes’, as a useful tool for understanding how in different spaces and times, according to different generations, genders, religious groups and the like, the radio, the television, the smartphone bring in locally informed understandings of the here and now and the there and then (i.e. of the present, past and future). The introduction explores the analytical opportunities of the notion of the chronotope for our understandings of the experience of electronic modernity.

studying digital creation stories - new challenges for media research in Africa - book chapter (2018)

Katrien Pype has contributed a chapter to the book "Palgrave Handbook for Media and Communication Research in Africa", edited by Bruce Mutsvairo, and published with Palgrave MacMillan (2018).

The goal of the volume is to identify new challenges and opportunities for media research in Africa. Contributors work in African universities and beyond.

Katrien's paper is called "The Devil is in the Rumba Text. Commenting on Digital Depth", and deals with the possible meanings of digital clips that circulate in the Congolese digital sphere in which music (and audiovisual clips) of contemporary Congolese rumba musicians are interpreted as embedded in occult worlds, especially the Illuminati world.

The main challenges described are (a) the lack of a generic label for this genre of instructive clips; (b) the inaccessibility of the uploaders and producers (refusal to be interviewed, to identify themselves); and (c) the lack of interest or consideration by many of my interlocutors in Kinshasa regarding the message and intentions embedded in these clips. 

Methodologically speaking, I was inspired by Fabian's proposal (2008) for producing commentaries - as a more appropriate genre of ethnographic writing in the digital era. In Ethnography as Commentary. Writing from the Virtual Archive (2008), Fabian argues that the easy accessibility of empirical data online significantly transforms theory production, ethnography and analysis. 

update (May 16 2018): The chapter has now been published - DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-70443-2_14
In the book: The Palgrave Handbook of Media and Communication Research in Africa, pp.245-262

love over Facebook : transnational connections, digital flirtations and the economy of sexuality - conference presentation - University of Birmingham (May 30-June 2 2017)

Katrien Pype attended the Cadbury Workshop on "Marriage in Africa" organized by the Department of African Studies & Anthropology at the University of Birmingham (UK).

She presented preliminary research findings on sexual play and flirtation in Kinshasa's digital sphere. 

Bolingo ya Face - stranger sociality, digital marriages, and family dilemmas in contemporary Kinshasa

In Kinshasa, social network sites such as Instagram, WeChat, Facebook and Whatsapp are mostly used as dating apps. Kinshasa's youth have easily embraced these new platforms to enlarge their social networks because they play into the desire for stranger sociality so striking for the lifeworlds of Kinois (inhabitants of Kinshasa). It also leads to an expansion of potential love partners. In the playful digital courting and flirting, the lines between "sexual play" and 'matrimonial commitment" have been blurred. This presentation starts from the premise that electronic networks are epitomizing the possibilities of love relationships that the urban context of the megapolis already offered. Virtual networks now also make the dream of "marrying a djika" (someone from the diaspora) actually possible. The analysis will focus on how electronic marriages come into being, are managed, and very often, dissolve, and how families respond to these new strangers. New dangerous categories of "risky lovers" are identified and debated, especially "mibali ya poto" (husbands from Europe) and "basi ya face" (girls from facebook). The material shows how electronic social networks not only enlarge users' social lifeworlds, but also how these tie into aspirations for "foreign" sexual and marriage partners, and how this leads to new moral debates, social opportunities but also risk.

MediAfrica at ECAS7

At the recent European Conference on Africa Studies in Basel, Switzerland, the MediAfrica represented with a panel as well as two presentations of recent research by participants in the project. Nanna Schneidermann convened a panel together with Casper Andersen from Aarhus University on “Urban technologies and technologies of urbanity in Africa.” The panel invited investigations of the relationship between technology and cities in Africa from an interdisciplinary standpoint:

”New and important questions are been asked about "local" innovation, "creolization" of imported technologies, maintenance, reuse and sustainability and not least about the role of technologies in the making of urban identities and forms of expertise and entrepreneurship. The burgeoning interest and growing literature has been interdisciplinary from the outset spanning across history, anthropology, geography, urban studies, STS and beyond. The panel aims to contribute to establishing a solid platform for this important interdisciplinary debate and invites papers that address the theoretical as well as empirical questions about urbanity and technology in Africa.”

These themes were explored in four papers presented on a Friday afternoon. Here Katrien Pype presented a recent chapter on ”Smartness from Below” calling for a closer attention to local vernaculars about technology and ”being smart” - and their relation to fantasies of development and ”smart cities”-  in Kinshasa.

These considerations neatly set the stage for the other papers in the panel; on repair and maintenance of electricity meters in Maputo, by Idalina Baptista, urban finances and mobile money in Eastern African cities, by Daivi Rodima-Taylor and William Grimes, and the politics and contestation of sanitation infrastructure in South African former townships by Steven Robins and Peter Redfield.

In a panel on women’s roles in negotiating health and healing in Africa, Nanna Schneidermann presented a paper on ”technologies of motherhood” based on recent fieldwork in Cape Town.

Overall the papers engendered discussions about the need for more “use-centric” studies and approaches to technology in Africa cities, and how these in turn might refine the concept of technology itself, as it is placed both in histories and in specific contexts of use.