Across Africa, digital media are providing scholars with a reason and opportunity for revisiting the question, and the analytical lens, of publics with new vigour and less normative baggage. This book brings together a rich set of empirically grounded analyses of the diverse digital spaces and networks of communication springing up across the Eastern African region.
The contributions offer a plural set of reflections on whether and how we can usefully think about these spaces and networks as convening publics, where citizens come together to discuss matters of common interest. The authors make clear the need to unshackle such studies from slavish acceptance of outsiders’ prescriptions on what constitutes desirable publics. They highlight the importance of being attentive to rapidly changing everyday realities across Africa in which people are coming together around the circulation of ideas in ways that include digital means of communications. In so doing, the contributions bring forward new ways of thinking about, through and with publics, alongside other heritages in Africanist scholarship that have continued salience. Looking outwards from the region, such different perspectives on our digitally mediated world offer theoretical novelty that advances how we think about the notion of publics and their political significance.
This book was originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Eastern African Studies.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Rethinking publics in Africa in a digital age
Sharath Srinivasan, Stephanie Diepeveen and George Hamandishe Karekwaivanane
2. From baraza to cyberbaraza: interrogating publics in the context of the 2015 Zanzibar electoral impasse
3. Knowledge and legitimacy: the fragility of digital mobilisation in Sudan
Siri Lamoureaux and Timm Sureau
4. ‘Tapanduka Zvamuchese’: Facebook, ‘unruly publics’, and Zimbabwean politics
George Hamandishe Karekwaivanane
5. Social diary and news production: authorship and readership in social media during Kenya’s 2007 elections
6. Kuchu activism, queer sex-work and "lavender marriages," in Uganda’s virtual LGBT safe(r) spaces
7. Bringing The Daily Mail to Africa: entertainment websites and the creation of a digital youth public in post-genocide Rwanda
Andrea Mariko Grant
8. #Whatwouldmagufulido? Kenya’s digital "practices" and "individuation" as a (non)political act
9. News media and political contestation in the Somali territories: defining the parameters of a transnational digital public
10. The limits of publicity: Facebook and transformations of a public realm in Mombasa, Kenya
11. WhatsApp as ‘digital publics’: the Nakuru Analysts and the evolution of participation in county governance in Kenya
12. A tale of two publics? Online politics in Ethiopia’s elections
Iginio Gagliardone, Nicole Stremlau and Gerawork Aynekulu
Sharath Srinivasan is Co-Director of the University of Cambridge’s Centre of Governance and Human Rights, David and Elaine Potter Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies, and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.
Stephanie Diepeveen is Research Associate in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge.
George Hamandishe Karekwaivanane is lecturer in the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh.