We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Connecting with home, keeping in touch : physical and virtual mobility across stretched families in sub-Saharan Africa.

Porter, G. and Hampshire, K. and Abane, A. and Munthali, A. and Robson, E. and Tanle, A and Owusu, S. and de Lannoy, A. and Bango, A. (2017) 'Connecting with home, keeping in touch : physical and virtual mobility across stretched families in sub-Saharan Africa.', Africa., 88 (2). pp. 404-424.


There is a long history of migration among low-income families in sub-Saharan Africa, in which (usually young, often male) members leave home to seek their fortune in what are perceived to be more favourable locations. While the physical and virtual mobility practices of such stretched families are often complex and contingent, maintaining contact with distantly located close kin is frequently of crucial importance for the maintenance of emotional (and possibly material) well-being, both for those who have left home and for those who remain. This article explores the ways in which these connections are being reshaped by increasing access to mobile phones in three sub-Saharan countries – Ghana, Malawi and South Africa – drawing on interdisciplinary, mixed-methods research from twenty-four sites, ranging from poor urban neighbourhoods to remote rural hamlets. Stories collected from both ends of stretched families present a world in which the connectivities now offered by the mobile phone bring a different kind of closeness and knowing, as instant sociality introduces a potential substitute for letters, cassettes and face-to-face visits, while the rapid resource mobilization opportunities identified by those still at home impose increasing pressures on migrant kin.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:© International African Institute 2018 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:14 June 2017
Date deposited:22 June 2017
Date of first online publication:24 May 2018
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar