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The digital revolution – SMS and the Internet – has brought about a profound change in Africa. Many people find themselves connected via the worldwide communication network for the first time. What do different cultures learn from each other, though? Do the new media bring about any changes in friendships and family relationships? And what is the effect of calls from home on migrants living in Europe? These are the questions being investigated by two young researchers in a project entitled “Passages of Culture – Ways of Culture“: Primus Tazanu is a social anthropologist from Cameroon. He is investigating how migrants in Germany use the new media to stay in contact with folks back home. His Swiss colleague, Bettina Frei, is engaged in field work in Cameroon: She is investigating the growing impact of computers and cell phones on local culture.

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Culture through the net

Cell phones and the Internet mean that it is easier to maintain contacts between Europe and Africa than ever before. What effects, though, are the new media having on African culture?

Digital family ties

Have the Internet and cell phones changed the everyday lives of Cameroonians? Social anthropologist Bettina Frei searches for answers by making video recordings and conducting interviews.

Field research with friends

Do the new media facilitate communication between Africa and Europe? Or do they just raise false hopes? Social anthropologist Primus Tazanu is investigating the digital contact between African migrants and their friends and relatives at home.

Communication by beeping

Call me back! In Africa this often takes no more than a simple ring tone. Friends can agree on what type of message the number of ring tones are meant to convey.

Gateway to the world

Along with cell phones, everyday life in Cameroon is increasingly being influenced by the Internet. Especially younger people search the net for work and contacts.

Money per click

Never has it been so easy to transfer money back home or between countries: The business of express money transfers is booming all over the African continent.

Soccer research

Excitement and dismay: While watching the Cameroonian national team struggling against its opponents, all the county’s other problems are forgotten. The viewers want to share their emotions – sitting in front of the TV with their cell phones.

Visiting colleagues

Cameroon’s largest university, Université de Yaoundé, is a cooperation partner of the Passages of Culture group. The doctoral students from Cameroon generate important impulses for the Basler team’s research work.

On tour in Cameroon

The Passages of Culture research group meets for a workshop in Nigeria, the most populated African country. Many of the continent’s problems are apparent here.

Wiedersehen at the workshop

The two social anthropologists Primus Tazanu and Bettina Frei will soon be finishing their field work – time for some interim conclusions. What have they learned, how will they now proceed?
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*) The Project

Cell phones and the Internet have changed the way people in Africa communicate. It has never been so easy to network all over the world. What are the effects of modern media on African culture, though? This is what social anthropologists Primus Tazanu and Bettina Frei want to find out from their field research in Germany and Cameroon.

Primus Tazanu and Bettina Frei

Primus Tazanu and Bettina Frei may come from very different cultures – but they have many things in common: both of them have studied Social Anthropology, both are interested in the new media, professionally as well as privately, and both of them love Africa. For their doctoral projects, the two researchers are investigating how cell phones and the Internet are impacting the lives of Africans.
The ethnologist Primus Tazanu from Basel studies the role of modern media for the social lives of people in Africa and for Africans living abroad.

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