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The use of jokes and mobile telephony to create counter-publics in Zimbabwe

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This article discusses how ordinary Zimbabweans use jokes and mobile phones to construct their counter-publics. Jokes are an important part of the oral public sphere and have been used as outlets for political expectoration, to navigate and subvert state power and media censorship. Most of the jokes are often transmitted through mobile phones, which have become part of African social and cultural life. In view of restrictive media laws and an exclusive and dominant public sphere since the year 2000, jokes and mobile telephony have been used by some Zimbabweans to articulate their political views and to express dissatisfaction with the deteriorating economic and political situation in the country. In addition, the income status barrier to mobile phone ownership has been reduced tremendously, giving the mobile phone the potential to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor, urban and rural.

Keywords: Zimbabwe; counter-publics; jokes; mobile telephony; public sphere; text messaging

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Stellenbosch University

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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  • The Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS) is an interdisciplinary journal that provides a forum for debate on the historical and contemporary aspects of media and communication in Africa. 
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