Keene State College
Feminist Anthropology, Social Science, and European History
Mentor: Dr. Courtney Marshall, UNH Departments of English and Women’s Studies
The Mobile Phone as Vector of Neocolonial Power: “Third-World” Cyborgs, Ethnocide, and the Challenges of Development
This study interrogates the sociopolitical effects of the exportation of mobile telecommunication technology in the developing world. Relying on Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Theory, this research reframes the mobile phone as a cultural artifact of consumerist society, a partner of global capitalism, and a geopolitical actor that recapitulates neocolonial conditions. The human-machine interface that embodies Haraway’s Cyborg is applied here to account for the technological dialectic between the developed and developing worlds in terms of the mobile phone. Like the Cyborg myth, the mobile phone augurs both liberatory and deleterious prospects for the cultures who encounter it. This analysis challenges the predominant assumption that technological advancement is not culturally-specific, and that Western technologies are applicable, desirable and unilaterally beneficial to developing countries. As a case study, demographic and socioeconomic data from Kenya will demonstrate the capitalist bias in assessing the benefits of mobile phones in the “Third World”. Furthermore, emergent subcultures among Kenyan youth and the reactive ethnocidal fears of their community elders, will ethnographically illustrate the ethnocidal dimensions of this technology. By demonstrating that the mobile phone is a vector of neocolonial power, this study calls for a discourse of development that resists ethnocentric visions of technological progress.