Internet Stoppage, Blackouts and Activist ‘Cybercriminals’: Structural & Infrastructural Violence in the #Ambazonian and #Oromo Uprisings

Authors: Amber Murrey*, University of Oxford
Topics: Political Geography, Africa, Social Geography
Keywords: infrastructural violence, Internet, social media, repression, resistance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In this paper, I review contemporary arrangements of infrastructural violence and injustice in Cameroon and Ethiopia, focusing on how infrastructural violence works alongside other forms of repression to suppress and marginalize grassroots resistance. The Internet operates as a critical mechanism of place-making, bound up with complex contestations of political meaning-making, stories and counter-stories. This includes how various groups frame and comment upon protests. In this, social media platforms provide spaces for the emergence and sustenance of ‘shared vocabularies’ (à la Paul Gilroy) for articulating grievances within virtual communities (Rao and Wasserman 2017). Internet users circulate and comment upon visualisations of injustices, violence and marginalisation. These are ‘representational strategies used to produce “truthful” accounts of the social world’ indeed ‘new technologies and social media are increasingly being used as tools for political mobilisation’ (Rao and Wasserman 2017, 4). These critical spaces are disrupted and inhibited, sometimes through sustained processes of infrastructural injustice—forms of violence that are further compounded by hegemonic representational dismissals and de-legitimizations of movement actors. The suspension of Internet, the blocking of social media networks and media websites, and the sabotaging of mobile infrastructure has become a routine post-colonial state responses to resistance. To approach these issues, I look at efforts by the state to suppress two important but under-considered movements: the Ambazonia movement in the Southwest and Northwest Regions of Cameroon and the Oromo uprising in Ethiopia.

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