Tenhunen, Sirpa, A Village Goes Mobile--Telephony, Mediation, and Social Change in Rural India. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. ix + 200 pages. Hardcover, $101.58; Paperback, $30.56; Kindle, $31.19.
This is ethnography well done on a suitable subject. Sirpa Tenhunen, an anthropologist, analyzes mobile telephony in Janta village in Bankura district in West Bengal State, India, proceeding from none to saturation. The book fits in the larger study of diffusion of mobile telephony. It significantly contributes to existing and on-going research, which has mainly focused on Western countries, neglecting the Global South. Helpfully, context and comparative examples are drawn from countries in the Global South, which includes most of the world--Asia (except Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan), Central America, South America, Mexico, Africa, and the Middle East (except Israel). Other exceptions are Australia and New Zealand which are south of the Equator but not Global South. Tenhunan is fluent in Bengali. She found Janta to be middling class, but infrastructurally behind most of large, federal, diverse India in education and medical care. When she initially went there doing ethnography, she did not know Janta village was on the verge of anything. When she returned, state internet had come. She found herself committed to fourteen years of observing, journaling, interviewing, filming. Hence, this book.
Tenhunen uses "poor" and "western" sparingly but jargon frequently--e.g., "socialities" or "intersectionalities" mark exceptional definitions. "Socialities" has tautologous definitions. An added twist to "intersectionalities" for India is the cultural persistence of castes overlaying and interpenetrating family names, class, economics, education, and earned credentials. Ideological policies, government programs, and technological factors interact with inherited mores on identities and associated rites in India. Another exceptional definition relates to media--as in mediating, remediating, and mediatization. Tenhunen defines and differentiates it for Communication, unlike any usages in Law.
Chaptering, contents, subtitles, notes, cross-references, references, and an index make this a useful, navigable, superbly crafted volume. Unfortunately, the index lacks an entry for secret, subversive uses of mobile telephony--addressed in text, and intensely interesting to professors, parents, and police.
Tenhunen lived among her...