Mobility, connectivity and sociability: the dialectical tension of the mobile phone?s prospects for feminist emancipatory politics
In feminist literature, there is a sense that the mobile phone amplifies women?s voices in a public sphere crowded by male domination. But how is this possible, when the attributes of mobile phones (mobility, connectivity, sociability) contradict the socialisation of women, particularly in Africa, where a ?desirable? femininity entails withdrawal from public spaces, shyness and being mostly confined to domestic settings? Using domestication theory, this study explores these questions through in-depth interviews with young female and male students in three higher learning institutions in Harare. While the mobile phone and Internet amplify the importance of identity construction and the psychological need by young women to formulate an empowering sense of self, there is a dialectical tension between the need for women?s autonomy from disempowering social processes vis-à-vis conformity to social hierarchy. Overall, these technologies ? among other more formal processes such as education and legislation ? expand the range of processes which advance women?s emancipation. While the private appropriation of digital media technologies by individuals in Africa is interlaced with contextual nuances and peculiarities, this opens up new possibilities for understanding the private as political, and for the popular to have serious public implications.