Mobile SecretsYouth, Intimacy, and the Politics of Pretense in Mozambique

Mobile SecretsYouth, Intimacy, and the Politics of Pretense in Mozambique

Julie Soleil Archambault

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780226447438

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Now part and parcel of everyday life almost everywhere, mobile phones have radically transformed how we acquire and exchange information. Many anticipated that in Africa, where most have gone from no phone to mobile phone, improved access to telecommunication would enhance everything from entrepreneurialism, to democratization, to service delivery, and usher in socio-economic development. Mobile Secrets offers a rethinking of how we understand uncertainty, truth, and ignorance by revealing how better access to information may in fact be anything but desirable. By engaging with youth in a Mozambican suburb, the book shows how, in their efforts to create fulfilling lives, young men and women rely on mobile communication not only to mitigate everyday uncertainty but also to juggle the demands of intimacy by courting, producing, and sustaining uncertainty. In their hands, the phone has become a necessary tool in a wider arsenal of pretense—a means of creating the open-endedness on which harmonious gender relations depend in postwar postsocialist Mozambique. The chapters explore the tensions between display and disguise, as well as the tensions between love and deceit, authenticity and the commodification of intimacy, and between truth and willful blindness, to argue that Mozambicans have harnessed the technology not only to acquire information but also to subvert regimes of truth and preserve public secrets. If the phone has proven so irresistible, it is in large part owing to how it allows, even if often imperfectly, to juggle the demands of intimacy.