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.