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Being Available and Reachable

New Media and Cameroonian Transnational Sociality

by Primus M. Tazanu

The book investigates what have become of Cameroonian transnational family and friendship ties in the age of the mobile phone and the internet that make people readily available and reachable.

Most theoretical literature states that these tools of sociality cement transnational social relationships through instantaneous interaction. To capture the different experiences and impressions on the significance of these media in easing communication for migrants and non-migrants, Tazanu draws on ethnographic accounts based on his fieldwork in Freiburg (Germany) and Buea (Cameroon). He argues that it is mainly the migrants who maintain or are expected to maintain ties with non-migrants back in Cameroon through calls and material support. The main finding of the study is that cell phones and the internet have facilitated discontents, grudges, insults, fights, avoidance, arguments and estrangement of relationships much more than they have contributed to binding friends or families through direct mediation. Underlying these aspects of distanciation are the high expectations and sometimes contradictory motives for instant virtual interaction. Non-migrants' accounts suggest that direct availability and reachability should lead to uninterrupted transnational interaction and also that the cultural practices of remittances from migrants are easily requested and coordinated. Such motives are generally contrary to migrants' wishes, willingness or ability to support friends and families in Cameroon. These unexpected outcomes arising from rapid speed of interaction questions the advantages that are often associated with instant sociality across space and time.

The finding is a call for the cultural background and life-world experiences of media users to be taken into consideration when theorising the significance of information technology in the debate on media globalisation.

ISBN 9789956727186 | 320 pages | 229 x 152 mm | 2012 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback



Being Available and Reachable questions the all too easy assumption that new media and mobile communication would automatically strengthen long-distance social links. Primus Tazanu proves his competence by not only using but also challenging and expanding the existing body of literature and theories.”

Professor Judith Schlehe, Institute of Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Freiburg, Germany.

“Primus Tazanu shows in his book that he is a very good ethnographer and that he is able to give an accurate account of his empirical research. His study is an original contribution to the current research in the field of new media and transnational social relationships”

Professor Till Förster, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland



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