Patterns Of Social Interactions in Ghanaian Transnational Families in the Context of Innovations in Information Communication Technologies
This study pays attention to how Ghanaian transnational families build and maintain close bonds over changing communication technologies. It highlights the tensions and conflicts that ensue and the broader pattern of the interactions given context-specific factors - gender relations among spouses, generational relationships among parents and children, migration induced class structure and the legal status of migrants. The objectives are situated in the relevance of socio-cultural context in patterning both technologies and transnational life. The constructivist grounded theory, which privileges the co-construction of research knowledge given the multiplicity of reality, situated in a processual context, was employed as the qualitative methodology for the study. Data was gathered through interviews, non-participant observation, and a review of relevant secondary data sources on YouTube and Facebook. Participants, located primarily in Ghana, were selected through snowballing, purposive, and theoretical sampling. The data gathered in Ghana were corroborated with insights gained from interactions among some Ghanaians in Vienna, Austria and Düsseldorf, Germany. Overall, sixty-one of them were interviewed across the study areas. The data were analysed using a thematic network analysis framework which proposes organising the themes from the data along three succeeding networks based on the degree of relationships.
In making sense of the data, the study drew insights from multiple perspectives ' 'transnational social fields', constituting families through systems of practices, and a synthesis of technological determinism and social construction of technology. The findings indicate that transnational families choose different ICT mediums to interact with each other depending on the type of care performed ' material, non-material, and the fulfilment of various trusteeship obligations. How specific ICT mediums fulfil the care obligations produces 'high-end and low-end techno bonds' among transnational families. The bonds are also sustained by the exchange of remittances, where one's migration status determines the mediums through which they are exchanged. Migrants, mainly regular migrants, have greater leverage in determining which formal and informal remitting channels are used than non-migrants and irregular migrants. This observation reveals the economic privilege of migrants, even though not all migration projects results in economic advancement. Through their various usage of voice, video, and text-based mediums, several needs and obligations are met and thus emphasises that families can be functional even when they are not spatially bounded. One of those needs is managing their nostalgia, as the physically separated relation becomes emotionally close.
However, the heightened emotional arousal caused by the proximity is further complemented with occasional visits and therefore provides the balance that sustains the transnational experience. The inability of irregular migrants to visit home adds to the precariousness of their transnational experiences. As transnational families use the various communication technologies, tensions and conflicts arise, which are patterned by the technological epoch and the nature of the kinship bond and hardly by one's legal migration status. Given the prohibitive cost of using the limited available technologies in the old technological epoch, the primary tension of transitional families was the sparsity of interactions. In the current epoch, the commonplace nature of communication technologies promotes surveillance and transnational freeloading. The nature of surveillance practices varies among different categories of kin. Therefore, it is pursued with varying interests, including rooting children in the homeland by parents, promoting the exclusivity of sexual rights among couples based on gendered cultural norms that put wives in the spotlight, and limiting the abuse of trusteeship obligations among extended relations.
Lastly, the study found that the benefits and constraints of technologically mediated social interactions generate an overall, '…always on, but off…' pattern that underscores the ability of families to determine through their ICT mediated practices who counts as family and who doesn't. The study's findings affirm the literature on the Janus-faced experiences of ICT mediated social interactions among transnational families. Also, additional Ghanaian specific contextual factors, such as the prevalence of 'community surveillance' as against private surveillance reported in some context such as Senegal; and how the culture of indirection is elicited to manage the intrusion of current technologies provides new insights to the literature. The study provides recommendations based on the findings and conclusions.
Ghana; Gender; Migrants; Information Communication Technologies
University of Ghana
Type of publication
Accra - University of Ghana
Added to C-A: 2022-08-22;10:44:40
© Connecting-Africa 2004-2024 | Last update: Monday, February 19, 2024 |