This project examines the role of digital communication in the making of cities of refuge. More particularly, it focusses on urban communities’ digital responses to sudden and unplanned change resulting from irregular migration into the city. The project zooms into urban neighbourhoods that receive large number of refugees and migrants. It examines how urban communities – established and new – mobilise digitally to respond and manage change in the city. From the development of local networks in support of refugees, to local training into digital skills, cities’ resilience is tested in the capacity to sustain inclusive, integrated and prospering communities.
The project offers a comparative, multimethod approach to the city of refuge by researching urban communities that share experiences of population transformation. The primary empirical focus is on three cities that currently experience the shocks of the “refugee crisis” and the arrival of approx. 1 million people in Europe within a year (Frontex 2016): Athens, Berlin and London. The primary empirical focus is complemented with research across different regions of the world; this global outlook offers a temporal and spatial comparison to the current moment of crisis. By conducting research in Hong Kong and Los Angeles, the project investigates good digital practices and digital failures to build resilience immediately after refugee arrivals but also after their long-term settlement. The study examines specific neighbourhoods of each city, which have directly, even if differently, experienced stresses or shocks through new arrivals: Victoria, Athens; Neukölln, Berlin; Harringay, London and Yen Long, Hong Kong and Little Somalia, Los Angeles.
Five cities of refuge are selected for the comparative framework, with European cities being the primary empirical domains. Athens, Berlin, London are currently experiencing the shocks of the “refugee crisis”, even if differentially; Los Angeles and Hong Kong have long experiences as cities of refuge and thus provide a spatial and temporal comparative dimension to the analysis. All cities share three common characteristics: they are all digital cities with rich digital infrastructures, networks and cultures; they constitute important case studies within the history of sudden and/or unwelcome population change as a result of forced migration; and their current position as cities of refuge is shaped in the midst of heated local and global debates on the “refugee crisis” and migration control.
The main research question that drives the project is:
- In what ways does digital communication enhance or hinder urban communities’ resilience in the aftermath of refugee arrivals to the city?
Resilience will be examined through the experience of the different constituents of urban communities: settled residents and new arrivals. Such a holistic approach highlights the importance of studying urban diversity and the need to examine how a wide range of urban dwellers use digital communications to develop capabilities for the growth and revitalization of their community. This holistic perspective also underscores the great potential of migration to enhance social, cultural and economic benefits after the initial shock of change.
The empirical study is conducted through three stages, each of which will deliver different outcomes.
Professor Myria Georgiou
Interests and expertise: audience research; diaspora; migration and the media; identity and the media; media and the city; transnational communities and networks
Dr Suzanne Hall
Interests and expertise: urbanisation; migration; migrant city-making; ethnography; visual methods
Dr Deena Dajani
Interests and expertise: digital technology, citizenship, public spheres, migration, gender, democratization, public diplomacy, political communication
Interests and expertise: cultural sociology, cultural production, migration, media and the city, citizenship
Proboscis is an independent artist-led creative studio directed by Giles Lane and Alice Angus with expertise in social engagement, creative research, innovation and problem solving. Collaboration and co-discovery for uncommon insight are at the heart of Proboscis’s creative practice.
Marcia Chandra is a documentary photographer and visual storyteller who works on themes of migration, place, and urban environments. Counterpoints Arts is a leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and cultural change. Its mission is to support and produce the arts by and about migrants and refugees, seeking to ensure that their cotnributions are recognized and welcomed within British arts, history and culture.
Dr Giota Alevizou, Open University
Dr Saskia Witteborn, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Prof Sandra Ball-Rokeach, University of Southern California.
Prof Francois Bar, University of Southern California