This paper focuses on “families of newness”, which amongst the Kom of Northwest Cameroon are known as azai dosi kfaang. It argues that because of geographical and social mobility experiences, families have not remained static, and consequently, the further they go from the
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This paper focuses on “families of newness”, which amongst the Kom of Northwest Cameroon are known as azai dosi kfaang. It argues that because of geographical and social mobility experiences, families have not remained static, and consequently, the further they go from the village the more modernized they become. In recent times, African societies as well as family histories have been concerned with connecting with those who have been left behind. As a result, the blueprint that marks out the African family today is found in its mobility both within and out of the continent. At the same time, what glues the family together is the newer forms of technologies encapsulated in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), which include amongst many others the cell phone, internet, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Letters pre-dated these new technologies and were significantly used by migrant families to stay “in touch”. Families began in the village, and as newer technologies were introduced—motor cars, a postal service and motorable roads—they moved or thought about places further away. With later technological developments, such as air travel and the mobile phone, families found themselves in distant diasporic spaces. This paper therefore hopes to make a contribution that relates family history and the history of migration to technology and social change. It also has the great value of discussing an area that gets too little attention in historiography. Fundamentally, the paper attempts to compare and contrast the use of technology, the news that could be shared (welfare, births, or obituaries), the length between contacts, the ability to make visits in person, the tensions that cropped up between family members abroad and those back at home in two periods, the 1930s–1940s and the 1990s to the present. What did these periods have in common? What was different and why? For the purpose of clarity, I will start the paper with a short introduction about the area, the issues of family formation, and kfaang
. The second part of the paper will focus on the discussion of the “newness” of those who migrated to more modern places and the role of technology. The third part compares/contrasts the connections of families in the two periods (1930s–1940s and 1990s-present) in order to flesh out the argument.