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Title: Mobile phones, communities and social networks among foreign workers in Singapore
Authors: Thompson, E.C. 
Keywords: Community
Foreign workers
Mobile phones
Social networks
Issue Date: Jul-2009
Citation: Thompson, E.C. (2009-07). Mobile phones, communities and social networks among foreign workers in Singapore. Global Networks 9 (3) : 359-380. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Transnational mobility affects both high-status and low-income workers, disrupting traditional assumptions of the boundedness of communities. There is a need to reconfigure our most basic theoretical and analytical constructs. In this article I engage in this task by illustrating a complex set of distinctions (as well as connections) between 'communities' as ideationally constituted through cultural practices and 'social networks' constituted through interaction and exchange. I have grounded the analysis ethnographically in the experiences of foreign workers in Singapore, focusing on domestic and construction workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh. I examine the cultural, social and communicative role that mobile phones play in the lives of workers who are otherwise constrained in terms of mobility, living patterns and activities. Mobile phones are constituted as symbol status markers in relationship to foreign workers. Local representations construct foreign workers as users and consumers of mobile telephony, reinscribing ideas of transnational identities as well as foreignness within the context of Singapore. Migrant workers demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the various telephony options available, but the desire to use phones to communicate can overwhelm their self-control and lead to very high expenditures. The research highlights the constraints - as well as possibilities - individuals experience as subjects and agents within both social and cultural systems, and the ways in which those constraints and possibilities are mediated by a particular technology - in this case, mobile phones. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd & Global Networks Partnership.
Source Title: Global Networks
ISSN: 14702266
DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0374.2009.00258.x
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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