Universiteit Leiden

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VICI voor Mirjam de Bruijn

Het Instituut voor Geschiedenis feliciteert Mirjam de Bruijn met het verkrijgen van een VICI-subsidie voor het onderzoek 'Connecting in Times of Duress: Understanding Communication and Conflict in Middle Africa’s Mobile Margins.'

Summary in English

This research programme seeks to understand the dynamics in the relationship between social media, mobile telephony and the social fabric under duress in Africa’s mobile margins. It combines studies on mobility/migration, conflict and communication in an attempt to uncover these new dynamics, which have been so evident in North Africa and the Middle East in 2011. Societies under duress are characterized by long periods of war or repression that lead to mobilities (forced or economic) and marginality. People who live in such circumstances have to manoeuvre between oppressive structures and possibilities to communicate, which are often informed by violence, fear and poverty.

The introduction of new ICT is enhancing information flows and communication between people and this is expected to lead to social change and to influence the social fabric in its (re)forming of communities and the construction of identity and feelings of belonging, which will increasingly differentiate social groups. The study is situated in northern Middle Africa (Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon and eastern Nigeria). The proposed methodology is interdisciplinary (anthropology, history, communication studies, conflict studies and social geography), historical-ethnographic and comparative, involving regional sub-projects among diverse mobile populations in urban centres, refugee camps and remote rural areas. Film and photography will also form part of the methodology, acting as a form of communication between researchers, local communities and stakeholders and will result in a documentary.

The study contributes to the development of a theory of connections. The findings will enhance our understanding of conflict dynamics and further the debate on the role of social media and ICT in conflict and post-conflict societies. Workshops and conferences in Africa and Europe will guarantee regular exchanges between policy makers and academia.

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