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Browsers and phone girls: the intricate socialities of friendship, trust and cyberlove in Nima (Accra)

  • Ann Cassiman

The young men of Nima, a popular neighbourhood in Accra, organize themselves in small age groups that meet almost daily in a specific spot, to chat, play and ‘wait’, while dreaming together of a better future in a distant elsewhere. The friendships that find root in these so-called bases, which often have names such as ‘Chicago’ or ‘Brooklyn’, lead to hope and specific modes of action through which these young people engage with the city, the wider world and their own aspirations. Taking these bases as an ethnographic vantage point, this article looks into relations of proximity, friendship and trust and the agency of the young men. The article's focus then turns to the virtual world of the same young men – and their girlfriends – in order to analyse the new modes of friendship that are shaped by their internet browsing. It shows how the modalities and intricacies of online, often deceitful, friendship and love rely on vital localized friendship bonds, defined by trust, of browsers in the zongo. Browsing opens up new possibilities but also challenges, and erodes existing moral socialities between friends.

Les jeunes hommes de Nima, un quartier populaire d'Accra (Ghana), s'organisent en petits groupes d’âges qui se réunissent presque tous les jours dans un endroit spécifique pour discuter, jouer et « attendre », tout en rêvant ensemble d'un futur meilleur dans un ailleurs lointain. Les amitiés qui trouvent racine dans ces bases, comme on les appelle, qui portent souvent des noms comme « Chicago » ou « Brooklyn », mènent à l'espoir et à des modes d'action spécifiques par lesquels ces jeunes appréhendent la ville, le monde autour et leurs propres aspirations. En prenant ces bases comme point de perspective ethnographique, cet article examine les relations de proximité, d'amitié et de confiance, ainsi que l'action de ces jeunes hommes. L'article s'intéresse ensuite au monde virtuel de ces mêmes hommes (et leurs compagnes) pour analyser les nouveaux modes d'amitié qui sont influencés par l'usage qu'ils font de l'Internet. Il montre comment les modalités et les complexités de l'amitié et de l'amour sur Internet, souvent trompeurs, reposent sur des liens d'amitié localisés essentiels, définis par la confiance, des surfeurs Internet du zongo. Internet crée de nouvelles possibilités mais aussi des difficultés, et érode les socialités morales existantes entre amis.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
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