Public Lecture location:University of Vermont date:7 Nov. 2012
Just like in many other African countries, the arrival of mobile phone networks in Kinshasa (already since 1986) has created new technological portals for Kinois (inhabitants of Kinshasa) to engage with each other and the larger world. In this presentation, I attempt to locate the mobile phone within Kinois society, and analyze the ways of relating to worlds of power within the domestic spheres and the state as these are articulated through fantasies about cellular technology and in practices with the mobile phone. Among state officials, parents and children, lovers, and in Pentecostal churches, the cell phone has become a much-discussed object, said to embody various kinds of dangers. Alternative practices are debated in order to “tame” the handset, however, this new technology is never fully rejected. I will focus on these private and public debates and on the “approved” usages of cellular phones and relate these to larger, fundamental changes going on in Kinshasa’s society, particular in the spheres of state-society relations, urban morality and construction of personhood. The material is based on anthropological research, participant-observation in Kinshasa’s society, church groups, and interviews with employees in the telecom sector and state officials.