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.