I’ve been reading up on Africa of late– Zimbabwe, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular. In the course of this study I came across an article by Anup Shah at GlobalIssues which addresses the issue of “Africa’s first World War”, the conflict in DRC:
The article goes as far back as Belgian colonization (1885)– when King Leopold claimed the area as his personal possesion– and covers the vicissitudes of national independence and Western neo-colonialism. Of particular note is the reference to coltan, a very valuable mineral used in the production of cellphones. During the conflict in DRC various armed groups funded themselves by selling coltan and the money those sales generated went to the purchase of arms. It goes without saying that this telecommunications version of “blood diamonds” ended up in the United States. Your cellphone may contain some. So much for “free” minutes. The point here, at least in terms of HUM 415, is the nature of globalization: we have become increasingly bound up with one another even if we dismiss that fact as irrelevant. Yet there seems to be a paradox here: even as economic relations grow more complex and entangled, consumer technologies available in the First World work to seal us off from one another or limit our contact to a narrow range of acquaintances. If we’re intellectually curious enough, we know significant events are transpiring around the globe– we can witness them at one remove via internet, etc. At the same time ipods, cellphones and pc’s constitute a social landscape that is either purely individuated or stripped down to a micro-community. Even the nominal collectivity of the latter is strange as it is more often than not mediated through electronics. So, a contradiction: widening fragmentation in the midst of deepening imbrication.