SOAS University of London

“Don’t Tax my Megabytes: Control Societies, Taxation and Digital Infrastructure in Africa



Dr. Clovis Bergère

Date: 9 December 2020Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 9 December 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Virtual Webinar

This event is postponed until Term Two (2021)

On 25 July 2018, the Beninese government announced its intention to start taxing its citizens accessing social media platforms Facebook, Whats App, and Twitter. In doing so, Benin was the latest country to join a growing list of African countries - including Guinea, Uganda and Zambia - instituting taxes and fees on Internet access. This talk explores recent efforts by the governments of Guinea and Benin to tax internet access as an entry way for analyzing how the digital infrastructure mediates relations between states and citizens in Africa. The emergence of a global international digital addressing infrastructure in the form of International Mobile Subscriber Identity and Internet Protocols (IP) provides African governments with a unique opportunity to locate taxable fiscal subjects and regulate opposition, the impetus between these new laws. I trace the changing contours of regulation and fiscal subjectivity, arguing that the emergence of regime of taxation based on the digital addressing infrastructure operates insidiously and in the shadows limiting the terms of political protest whilst distributing agency commercialized lines. This forces us to consider processes of interpretation and hybridity from above as well as from below as enmeshed in specific historical - political arrangements of power, and invites us to challenge both essentialized notions of the media infrastructure and binaries that equate hybridity with resistance and meaning - making with the subversive.

Bio: Clovis Bergère is Assistant Director for Research at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a visual ethnographer whose research examines the politics of youth as they are realized in relation to digital media in Guinea, West Africa. He completed his Ph.D. in Childhood Studies at Rutgers University-Camden in 2017, with a specialization in global youth media. His work has appeared in the International Journal of Communication, African Studies Review, American Anthropologist as well as several edited volumes. In addition to digital media, he has written on street corners as spaces of youth socialization in Guinea. Prior to moving to the United States in 2011, he worked for seven years as a project manager in Children’s Services in London, UK, where he built over thirty innovative playgrounds and youth centers, focused on natural play and collaborative design.

This event will take place on Zoom. To attend, please follow this link. Passcode: F7aKSpVBiC.

Organiser: Dr. Dina Matar, Chair, Centre for Global Media and Communication

Contact email: