SOAS University of London

Centre for Global Media and Communications

Thembi Mutch

  • Overview


Thembi Mutch
Thembi Mutch
Thesis title:
Women in Zanzibar, their discussions around Media and Modernity
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

I am in the final year of my PhD study. My work theorises the nature of women’s involvement in public affairs in Zanzibar and the role of the media.  It uses and builds on three main dominant yet problematic theoretical binaries:

This study revealed the ongoing significance of gender, the informal networks of family, notions of nationalism, and embedded understandings of appropriate behaviour, transmitted via social talk in Zanzibar.  The research also highlights the importance of the informal information economy, information transmitted via communication with friends and relatives in markets, taxi stands and living rooms pavement radio as cited by Ellis (1989).  This study re-imagines notions of agency and engagement and the Southern Public Sphere. I have developed this theme to look at ‘porch activism’ (the project of young girls accessing internet late at night via the mobile phone, in the privacy of the bedroom and out of the public gaze of internet cafes.)

This work suggest there are other ways that people exercise agency, which calls for a new approach to theorising personal and public social agency, incorporating important issues of shame, community cohesion, community reputation, and perceptions of modernity. There are continued effects (on the individual) felt from the continuation of  evolved and organic methods of operating, and new forms of capital, including social capital and various strategies of social resilience.

The thesis became an investigation into why this happened, the effects and consequences of this for women as audiences, and an attempt to theorise the pull of the ‘outside’ and the ‘new or modern’ in some of its manifestations. The bedroom activism that I propose, incorporates the research finding that women are using the internet, particularly via their internet-enabled phones, in their own homes, or in private spaces, and thus avoiding any threat of social stigmatism, shame or loss of reputation, that is so key to public and private operational life in Zanzibar.