Resilient Communities, Resilient Cities?

Digital makings of the city of refuge

The project examines how urban communities – established and new – mobilise digitally to respond and manage change in the city

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. 

Research focus

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 is examined through the experience of the different constituents of urban communities: settled residents and newcomers. Fundamental to the project is a horizontal perspective into the city. Particularly, by engaging with established communities, civic actors and newcomers alike, the project destabilises conceptual, empirical and policy assumptions that often predetermine who speaks, on behalf of whom, and who should listen in the context of migration. A horizontal perspective into the city of refuge tackles three dominant limitations in policy and research that either examines citizens and the civil society alone or migrants as isolated actors. Instead, a horizontal approach to the city of refuge: (i.) destabilises assumptions about citizens and noncitizens being divided between benefactors and beneficiaries, with citizens and institutions being privileged in their capacities and right to speak and to be heard; (ii.) opens us spaces for understanding and promoting relations of trust and cooperation between those receiving and those arriving in the city; (iii.) enables conceptual and empirical opportunities to understand different forms of agency and acts of citizenship within the city, especially by recognising that newcomers, citizens and civil society do and can develop different capacities to deal with challenges associated with urban life and migration.   

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.

Outputs and events

  • City of Refuge Toolkit – open access participatory toolkit

  • Workshops with newcomers and civil society actors in Athens, Berlin and London recording networking practices of digital resilience, in 2018-19. Engagement activities are designed by Proboscis

  • Mapping the city of refuge LA:  Participatory event, Los Angeles (with Tanita Enderes), 5 May 2018.

  • Digital archive of the city of refuge: a web based digital archive sharing images and narratives of the city of refuge and its actors (work in progress) 

  • LSE Symposium Migration and the Digital city, 29 March 2019 

  • Tate Exchange Workshop Building the city of refuge digital archive, 23 May 2019Georgiou, M. (2019) City of refuge or digital order? Refugee recognition and the digital governmentality of migration in the city. Television and new media here

  • Georgiou, M. (2019) City of refuge or digital order? Refugee recognition and the digital governmentality of migration in the city. Television and new media here
  • Dagani, D (2020) Refuge under austerity: the UK’s refugee settlement schemes and the multiplying practices of bordering here 


Myria 2017

Professor Myria Georgiou
Principal Investigator

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
Research Officer

Interests and expertise: digital technology, citizenship, public spheres, migration, gender, democratization, public diplomacy, political communication


Kristina Kolbe
Research Assistant

Interests and expertise: cultural sociology, cultural production, migration, media and the city, citizenship

Creative Partners

Giles Lane, Proboscis 

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 and Aine O'Brien, Counterpoints Arts

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.

Academic Advisors

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


This project funded by LSE's Institute of Global Affairs (IGA) as part of the Rockefeller Resilience Programme.