Africa is at the lower end of internet use, but Facebook connectivity is rapidly increasing, linking diaspora and local people in mainly urban regions in Africa. A survey conducted in N’Djaména revealed that 1 in 10 people uses Facebook, which is an important platform for these connected Chadians to express feelings, write thoughts, and create networks (i.e., to create a social life). In countries where daily conflict, oppression, insecurity, and mistrust pervade social life, posts and messages engage with these circumstances in a certain dialogue, which can be understood as an expression of duress. This article follows three Facebook users from both the diaspora and N’Djaména, and I position their Facebook expressions and actions in the context of their personal lives in contemporary Chadian political and connectivity history. Facebook appears to be an escape route from the reality of duress, and a form of practical action coupled with political agency.
Understanding Experiences and Decisions in Situations of Enduring Hardship in Africa
Mirjam de Bruijn and Jonna Both
The enduring experience of hardship, in the form of layers of various crises, can become deeply ingrained in a society, and people can come to act and react under these conditions as if they lead a normal life. This process is explored through the analytical concept of duress, which contains three elements: enduring and accumulating layers of hardship over time, the normalization of this hardship, and a form of deeply constrained agency. We argue that decisions made in duress have a significant impact on the social and political structures of society. This concept of duress is used as a lens to understand the lives of individual people and societies in Central and West Africa that have a long history of ecological, political, and social conflicts and crises.