Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

The Circulation and Transformation of Knowledge in Refugees’ Social Media circuits

Auteur(s) : Böhme Claudia ;

Refugees are a group of people who suffer from general heteronomy. They are externally defined with the label of “refugee” and through the system of humanitarian aid; their live is under the control and regulations of others. Staying in “total institutions” like refugee camps, they suffer from restrictions on mobility, legal rights and self-determination and severe interventions into the self. The same is true for their representation. Throughout history, journalists and researchers from the Global North have represented refugees and have often failed to give voice to refugees’ own perspectives.  “The refugee” has been constructed either as a passive victim or as a dangerous intruder. However, as many studies have also shown, forced migrants are actors in their own right, who are actively organizing and planning their lives and their futures.

This all-encompassing heteronomy is nowadays countered by refugees’ use of social media and the internet. Through these media, people on the move can not only connect to a social network around the world but also represent themselves and give voice to their concerns.

In this paper, which is based on research with refugees from the Global South in Germany and Kenya, I want to show how refugees counter this heteronomy with their self- representation through social media and the internet. In analyzing their media usage, I want to show how they represent themselves online, how knowledge is circulated and transformed in their Social media circuits, how this gives them larger capacity to change their lives and how their representation changes the view and perspective in the Global North.


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