Problematic Empowerment: West African Internet Scams as Strategic Misrepresentation

Jenna Burrell

Jenna Burrell, Problematic Empowerment: West African Internet Scams as Strategic Misrepresentation, Information Technology and International Development, 2008.

Internet scamming strategies associated with West Africa typically involve the creation and deployment of fictional narratives depicting political turmoil, corruption, violence, poverty, and personal tragedy set in a variety of African nations. This article examines Internet scammers complicity in promoting these creatively dramatic and yet stereotyped representations of Africa and Africans. Their approach is an example of what De Certeau describes as a 'tactic' where scammers manipulate the space of representations produced by hegemonic forces in the West to realize subversive ends. The attempts of Internet scammers highlight the difficulties of creating selfrepresentations that are both 'authentic' and persuasive underlining the complexity inherent in efforts by marginalized communities to be heard by those they perceive as powerful. This remains the case despite new mechanisms of communication, such as the Internet, that make connecting (in a purely functional sense) much easier and less expensive.


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