University of Oulu

WALTER, A.-M. (2021), The self in a time of constant connectivity. American Ethnologist, 48: 446-461.

The self in a time of constant connectivity : romantic intimacy and the ambiguous promise of mobile phones for young women in Gilgit, northern Pakistan

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Author: Walter, Anna-Maria1,2
Organizations: 1Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, PL-1000, Oulu, 90014 Finland
2Social and Cultural Anthropology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munchen, Germany
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-02-23


Ubiquitous mobile phones have transformed not just our modes of communication but our self-perception. In facilitating a direct personal connection, be it via a call, a text message, or social media, they present the unprecedented challenge of synchronicity, in which users must simultaneously navigate different social contexts and plural identities. In the area of Gilgit, northern Pakistan, young women in particular struggle with social scrutiny of their mobile phone use, given the latter’s potential to facilitate illicit relationships. They counter such threats to their moral integrity by consciously limiting their range of interlocutors. They invoke “trust” and curate a more transparent, congruent version of themselves as pious yet competent and sophisticated digital users. This allows them to creatively adapt new technologies and, most importantly, to implement and promote an Islamically sanctioned form of courtship. By prompting processes of individuation, mobile phones paradoxically restrict the enactment of plural selves yet allow for creative improvisations.

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Series: American ethnologist
ISSN: 0094-0496
ISSN-E: 1548-1425
ISSN-L: 0094-0496
Volume: 48
Issue: 4
Pages: 446 - 461
DOI: 10.1016/j.str.2021.01.006
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 520 Other social sciences
Funding: Open access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. American Ethnologist published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Anthropological Association This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.