The blessings and burdens of communication: cell phones in Jamaican transnational social fields



Abstract Although much mention has been made of the importance of ICTs for transnational migrants, we know relatively little about how these technologies affect or change everyday transnational communications. Tracing the shift from community phone boxes to individually owned mobile (cell) phones in rural Jamaica, in this article I focus on the integration of mobile phones in Jamaican transnational communication. Equipped with a mobile phone, rural Jamaicans no longer rely on collect phone calls and expensive calling cards to initiate the connections between their friends and relatives living abroad. For many Jamaicans without access to a regular or reliable phone service prior to 2001, the mobile phone is viewed as an unadulterated blessing, transforming the role of transnational communication from an intermittent event to a part of daily life. For others, however, the mobile phone remains an object of ambivalence, bringing unforeseen burdens and obligations.