About [email protected] – Concepts

[email protected] will explore how migrant individuals and communities participate in the production and transformation of transnational digital networks and the effect of transnational digital networks on migrant mobility and integration. Transnational digital networks will be studied as instances of socioeconomic, gender, racial, and class hierarchies, where the participation of migrant communities entails the possibility of challenging these hierarchies. The participation of migrant communities – at times inclusive, joining in larger transnational digital projects, at times exclusive, creating separate and relatively closed transnational spaces – will be investigated in detail through particular case studies in seven thematic areas: Border Crossings, Communication and Information Flows, Education and Knowledge, Religious Practices, Sexualities, Social Movements, Intercultural Conflict and Dialogue.

A critical approach to the separation between the digital and the real

[email protected] will treat digital networks as sets of social practices (not just pieces of technology) that map onto real, rather than virtual geographies. From this perspective, research and analysis will place on the same plane the experiences, histories and everyday practices of migrants moving between geographical areas and between digital spaces. The engagement of migrants with digital mediums will be seen as a means of producing, re-producing, or challenging cultural forms and identities. The “connected migrant’s” digital activities are expansive: through the global interconnections offered by the web, migrants re-draw the relationships they have with their environments at home, at their host country or in-between, and may participate in multiple worldwide networks that are integrated into their everyday local reality. In this sense, [email protected] will not simply address the ‘use’ or the ‘effects’ of digital technologies: instead, it will look at how migrants attempt to construct cultures and identities in a transforming communicative environment, how they can locate themselves in this environment and at the same time try to mould it in their own preferred image. While there is growing evidence on the use of new digital tools and platforms by migrants for diverse cultural purposes, the multiple intersections between migrant and digital networks -both networks that connect different locations of origin and destination, as well as places of transit- still remain largely unexplored. [email protected] will address the rise of transnational digital networks as both an opportunity and a challenge for the inclusion of migrants.

A transnational approach to migration

[email protected] will undertake the task of researching and analyzing the ways in which migrants participate in the production and proliferation of transnational digital networks. Against a dominant trend that perceives the phenomenon of migration according to host and sending societies and devises methodological tools and policy responses based on ethnocentric approaches, the project will be based on a transnational perspective that focuses mostly on the links and networks that cross, and transcend, national and gender borders connecting migrant individuals and groups across the globe. From this perspective, migrant movements will not be conceptualized simply as linear processes leading migrant individuals and groups from one place to another, but as multi-directional processes, determined by transnational patterns of travelling and communication, as well as exchanges of information, ideas, histories, memories, and goods across national territorial and cultural borders. Although transnational processes linked to migration have already been identified in the past, and have also been studied from a gendered perspective new technological developments, which have had a profound effect on the spread, proliferation and diversification of migrant transnational networks need to be addressed in further research. Identifying and reflecting on the multiple links between the development of these migrant networks and high speed and broadband technologies will allow [email protected] researchers to explore further specificities and potentialities of contemporary transnationalism.

An intersectional approach to gender

Mainstreaming a gender approach across these perspectives is one of the central premises of [email protected], since both transnational migration and digital networks are constructed on the basis of gendered relations. Gendered approaches to migration and new media studies have highlighted how intersecting power relations, based on racialised, ethnicised, gendered and sexualised discrimination, affect the different social positions occupied by (migrant) men and women, as well as the different practices they engage in. Therefore, researching the intersecting dynamics of migration and digital future, which is at the heart of the [email protected] project, cannot but address these transnational processes through an approach to gender that engages with the multiple intersections between gender, nation, race, class and sexual orientation. As both cyberfeminist and migration studies scholars have argued, intersectionality is at the heart of transnational phenomena leading to a multiplication of gender identities and positions. In the context of [email protected], the appropriation of multiple identities and performativities in digital spaces challenging dominant representations of masculinity and femininity as well as the rigid distinction between the digital and the real parallels the multiplication of gender roles and identities in transnational networks.