Exploring mobile phone practices ...
This article was downloaded by: [University of Rhodes] On: 08 May 2012, At: 04:21 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK African Identities Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cafi20 Exploring mobile phone practices in social movements in South Africa – the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Sarah Chiumbu a a Department of Media Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa Available online: 01 Mar 2012 To cite this article: Sarah Chiumbu (2012): Exploring mobile phone practices in social movements in South Africa – the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, African Identities, 10:2, 193-206 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14725843.2012.657863 PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
RESEARCH ARTICLE Exploring mobile phone practices in social movements in South Africa – the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign Sarah Chiumbu* Department of Media Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa (Received 22 August 2011 final version received 22 February 2012) Mobile phones have developed explosively in Africa, with South Africa having one of the highest mobile phone penetrations in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile phones have introduced a set of new communicative and cultural practices. Innovative pricing models in Africa, such as ‘pay-as-you go’ and ‘please call me’ have helped to make mobile phones a part of the lives of many who are otherwise disconnected. Social justice movements in South Africa, often marginalized by mainstream communication systems, are increasingly using mobile phones to coordinate actions, mobilize and create networks despite the fact that most of these movements have their origins among deprived communities. This article analyses how the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign appropriates mobile phones and the impact of this appropriation on its roles and collective identities. In addition, the article examines how the Western Cape Anti- Eviction Campaign has (re)appropriated and re-shaped the mobile phone to amplify traditional methods of mobilization leading to the creation of what Henry Jenkins (2006) has called ‘convergence culture’. Drawing on social construction of technology and domestication theories, the article argues that mobile phones have not replaced traditional ways of mobilization, but have amplified them. In this regard, the use of both traditional mobilization tools and mobile phones strengthen mobilization activities and give new meaning to the mobile phone. Keywords: social movements mobile phones collective identity Western Cape Anti- Eviction Campaign Introduction Mobile phones have revolutionized Africa during the past two decades. Several studies show that Africa is the first continent to have more mobile phone users than fixed-line subscribers (Goldstuck 2010). For instance, less than 3% of the population had access to a telephone in 2001, but by 2010 the number of mobile subscribers had grown to approximately 500 million (Rao 2011). There is no doubt that the mobile phone has begun to occupy an important place in the social, political and economic reconfiguration of Africa. This tremendous growth has spawned growing literature on the significance of mobile telephony in Africa. However, most of this literature is embedded within the modernization and ‘leapfrogging’ paradigm that equates use of technology with economic growth and development (e.g. Heeks and Jagun 2007, Waverman et al. 2005, Williams 2005). This is in contrast to research conducted in other parts of the world that focuses on mobile phones ISSN 1472-5843 print/ISSN 1472-5851 online q 2012 Taylor & Francis http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14725843.2012.657863 http://www.tandfonline.com *Email: Sarah.Chiumbu@wits.ac.za African Identities Vol. 10, No. 2, May 2012, 193–206
and how they are affecting and reshaping cultural and social practices (e.g. Lonkila and Gladarev 2008, Castells et al., 2007, Ito et al., 2005, Ling and Pedersen 2005, Ling 2004, Katz 2003, Katz and Arkus 2002). However, literature that engages with agency and how Africans are using the mobile phone to negotiate their multiple identities is slowly emerging. The main argument running through this literature is that not only are mobile phones shaping social realities in African societies, but in turn Africans and their societies are (re)shaping the mobile phone technologies in different ways (e.g. De Bruijn et al. 2009, Kriem 2009, Hahn and Kibora 2008).Otheremergingstudieson thissubjectengage withhow Africansare using themobile phone for democratic activism (Obadare 2006, Mudhai 2006, 2004), for rural livelihood strategies (e.g. Burrell 2008) and building and maintaining social networks (Skuse and Cousins 2008). De Bruijn et al. (2009) argue that there is now an emergence of an African ‘mobile phone culture’ centred on a multiplicity of activities involving the mobile phone. This article contributes to this growing literature by looking at how the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, a social justice social movement in Cape Town, South Africa, appropriatesmobilephonesformobilizationand networking.Thearticledrawsuponqualitative interviews and focus group discussions conducted in Delft Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area (TRA),1 Newfields Village in Hanover Park, Silver Town2 and the Gugulethu in April and October 2010. Interviews and focus group discussions were supplemented by document analysis, analysis of the movements’ websites and literature review. Social movements, new media and mobilization In the early 1990s, the Zapatista of Chiapas movement in Mexico first made use of the Internet to protest against the North American Free Trade Agreement (Castells 1997). Inspired by the success of this form of mobilization, global social movements that emerged in the 1990s to protest corporate neo-liberalism have employed the Internet and lately mobile phones to share information, organize direct action and coordinate activities that confront economic and social injustices spawned by global capitalism (see for example Ayers 2003, Meikle 2002, Bennet 2003, Kahn and Kellner 2004, Juris 2005, Wall 2007). Indeed, ICTs are seen as alternative public spheres with the ability not only to bypass restrictive state and corporate mainstream media, but also their capacity to overcome limits of time and space (McCaughey and Ayers 2003, Kahn and Kellner 2004). In the last five or so years, there has been a broad adoption of mobile phones by social movements in Africa. While many of these groups have found obstacles in using fixed telephony due to unavailability, they have quickly grasped the potential of the mobile phone and are using it for various mobilization purposes. Whereas this uptake has been documented in ‘grey’ literature, there is very little academic research that critically addresses these uses. In South Africa, social justice movements are increasingly using the Internet and mobile phones to mobilize, create networks and lobby for social justice, despite the fact that most of these movements have their origins among poor communities. Most mobile phone practices by social movements have been coordinated by institutional and donor organizations through various technical assistance mechanisms. The Anti-Eviction Campaign presents an interesting and unique example in that it has utilized mobile phones in an organic and bottom-up manner. How does a social movement, rooted in poor and marginalized communities, appropriate the mobile phone? While existing research on social movements use of new media technologies in South Africa focuses on administrative uses of the Internet (e.g. Wasserman 2007, Loudon 2010), this present study brings a different aspect, foregrounding the active appropriation of mobile S. Chiumbu 194