The Great Indian Phone Book: How the Cheap Cell Phone Changes Business, Politics, and Daily Life

Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-674-07268-8
In this fine anthropological study, Doron and Jeffrey look at how the introduction and current widespread use of the cell phone has altered life in one of the world’s largest countries. In 1991, there were 165 people for every telephone in India, but today this ratio is 2:1 or less. The authors cover the technical aspects of this rapid expansion, as well as some of the corruption involved, including the arrest of a former minister of communications. More compelling, though, are the stories of individual citizens and the changes, not always for the better, wrought by mobile phone ownership. For example, the growth of the cell phone industry resulted in new jobs in sales, tower construction, manufacturing, and repair, both by corporate employees and street craftsmen. The 2007 elections in Uttar Pradesh were profoundly affected by motivated citizens using their mobiles. In traditional households, it isn’t uncommon for new brides to have their phones confiscated by their in-laws for modesty’s sake. Pornography, terrorism, and surveillance abuses are just some of the criminal acts abetted by cell phones. This rich study reveals much about modern India and should be read by both students and scholars of technology and South Asia. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-84904-313-7
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