‘Connecting in Times of Duress: Understanding communication and conflict in Middle Africa’s mobile margins’ (2012-2017) is an NWO-funded research project at the University of Leiden, aimed at understanding the dynamics in the relationship between enduring conflict, hardship, governance regimes, mobility, migration and connectivity.
The project focuses on these themes in Middle Africa, in particular in Cameroon, Chad, CAR,
Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville, DRC and Mali, a region with a shared history of mobility, of oppression and conflict and of connectivity. Within the region the variation in these three variables and its comparisons highlight processes and dynamics of socio-political change. The research programme uses an interdisciplinary methodology, combining anthropology, history, communication studies, conflict studies, and social geography. The subprojects were designed to be comparative and complementary, among diverse mobile populations in urban centers, refugee camps, and remote rural areas and of different types of relations between duress and changing communication technologies.
‘Connecting in Times of Duress’ explores how the introduction of ICTs changes patterns of communication and information flows where people live in duress. More specifically, it concentrates on (a) how, through new communication and information flows people’s experience of duress changes; (b) how new opportunities to be informed, to communicate, and connect, influence individual decision making and the (re)forming of communities; and (c) how these changes influence power relations and existing hierarchies. An important goal is to contextualize these seemingly ‘revolutionary’ and ‘new’ changes related to the introduction of new technologies in a historical longue durée perspective, relating developments in mobile communication to older communication processes in the history of Middle Africa.
Definitions of central concepts: Duress – the internalization of hardship and violence that are a result of oppression, conflict and war and its often long and deep history; Connectivity – is defined in relation to ICTs, but not only new ICTs; it is the act of connecting; the assumption is that increased connectivity leads to changing flows of information and communication that informs people’s perceptions and agency; Mobility – is the physical movement of people, but we also consider virtual mobility.
The study of connections will be the axis of all projects. For the full version of the (initial) research proposal (2012), click here.