The use of smartphones and the quest for a future among West African men in reception centers in Italy
In this article, I will analyse the creative use of smartphone by West African men living in reception centers in Torino, in Italy. As the usurpation of time has become an integral part of the European border regime, I place migrants’ media practices in relation to their claims for temporal justices. Drawing on ethnographic data, I argue that the use of smartphones – and especially the making and sharing of images – represents a practice of future making, which is linked to the dimension of hope and desire more than that of nostalgia. After having considered the mobile phone as an instrument for “killing time” during the slow daily routine of the reception centers, I will go on to analyse how the skillfully crafting of one’s own virtual image helps to carry out migratory projects and to obtain a residence permit. Finally, I will turn my attention to the materiality of the smartphone. As an “object of desire,” it is part of a chain of gifts and counter-gifts capable of unlocking new scenarios through the creation of relationships. I conclude that the smartphone can be seen as a weapon in the battle over time which is proper of contemporary migration politics and governance.
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