(Dis)connected lives in prolonged displacement: an ethnographic study on media-use and sense-making practices within Iraqi refugee households in Jordan
A Seminar with Dr. Mirjam Twigt
Among the worlds’ forcible displaced, prolonged legal and temporal uncertainty has become the norm rather than the exception. Institutionalized as ‘waiting’, living with suspended rights for years is a deeply active, affective mode of being. My forthcoming book seeks to further comprehend how digital connectivity interacts with everyday experiences of legal and temporal uncertainty of refugees, geographically residing in the Middle East. In order to provide more contextual recognition for the significance of technologies in refugees’ everyday lives beyond the ‘west’ and beyond their instrumental roles only, I draw upon ethnographic research largely conducted in 2015 among Iraqi refugee households in Jordan’s capital Amman.
Empirical examples enable me to point out the complex social and subjective roles that digital technologies can play in navigating in, and only sometimes out of, prolonged crises. These include refugees’ sense-making of and communication with the international refugee regime, sustaining dispersed family and friendship relations, the interaction between virtual and situated home making practices, the roles of technologies for sustaining hope for better futures elsewhere. But the same technologies that provide space to manoeuvre are easily morphed back into spaces of control and people’s mediated practices interact with situated and material realities. Supposedly ‘neutral’ technologies tend to further entrench unequal power relations and have a tendency for mapping into persisting inequalities around issues relating to class, ‘race’, gender and legalised status.
Experiences of digital connectivity occur simultaneously and in interaction with experiences of being and feeling disconnected. These include and go beyond offline and online material, social and embodied experiences of global neo-colonial and capitalist entanglements and inequality, including its bordering practices and (anti-Muslim/Middle Eastern/Arab/refugee) othering processes. Recognition for the significance of digital connectivity of people residing in legally precarious circumstances and in favour of transnational solidarity therefore equally warrants substantive caution for humanitarian approaches that presume that technologies would somehow be able to provide simple solutions for issues that are deeply political.
This seminar will take place on Zoom. Attendance requires registration. Please register here.
Dr. Mirjam Twigt holds a PhD in Media, Communication and Sociology from University of Leicester, UK and was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL), based at the British Institute of Amman in 2018 – 2019. The findings of her PhD and postdoctoral research are to be published in a forthcoming monograph on the roles of communication technologies in everyday experiences of Iraqi refugees residing in prolonged displacement in Amman, Jordan.