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Migration and Mobility in a Digital Age: Paradoxes of Connectivity and Belonging Conference

General Programming

  • ERC European Research Council
  • Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Columbia University, Division of Humanities
  • Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • New York University - Department of Media, Culture and Communication
  • ICLS (Institute for Comparative Literature and Society)
  • Butler Library
  • CES, Council for European Studies
  • Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility
  • Center for the Studies of Social Difference
  • Sandra Ponzanesi
  • Registration required. See details.

Publication Special Issue born from event: Migration and Mobility in a Digital Age: (Re)Mapping Connectivity and Belonging

Guest editor: Sandra Ponzanesi
Television and New Media, 20(6): 547-648

The image of Syrian refugees with a smartphone shooting ‘selfies’ upon reaching dry land has captured the international imagination (Chouliaraki, 2017; Kunstman, 2017; Risam, forthcoming 2018). It suggests an image of the ‘connected migrant’ (Diminescu, 2008), which is shaped by a profound ambivalence: migrants are expected to be people fleeing from war, violence, and poverty; they are not expected to be ‘digital natives’, equipped with technologies to navigate their difficult journeys. While smartphones are accessible, affordable, and easy to use, in the realm of the public imaginary the image of the disenfranchised and disconnected migrant remains that of the ‘have nots’, and therefore subject to ‘high tech orientalism’ (Chun, 2006, p. 73). This posits the figuration of the migrant as outside the realm of development and modern forms of communication, disenfranchised and vulnerable in order to be worthy of international aid and pity (Boltanski, 20000; Ticktin, 2008). And yet smartphones are ubiquitous, and migrants have been early adopters and heavy users of technologies for the simple reason that these technologies are ingrained in their daily practices and everyday lives, which often involve perilous crossings but also the need to keep in touch with the home front and their diasporic communities. The promise of connectivity that is guaranteed even under duress becomes fraught with the profound disconnection brought about by the disciplining gaze of Western media and publics.

It is, therefore, crucial to focus on the specific way in which digital technologies bridge or magnify the gap in migration between geographical distance and digital proximity. How are affect, intimacy, and belonging negotiated online in the face of forced migration and expulsions (Sassen, 2012) but also of circular migration, expatriation, and transnational movements?

This conference aims to cover a broad range of conflict-related issues on migration in a digital age. Using the latest insights from a range of interdisciplinary fields, it will explore theories of displacement such as diaspora, cosmopolitanism, and nomadism, and the transformations brought about by the digital revolution, through the analysis of virtual communities, social media platforms, and digital activism. It will also focus on media production and the regulation of information on forced migrants in a ‘post-truth’ era: fake news; the humanitarianism-securitization nexus, migration management, social and political conflicts related to migrant and diaspora communities, radicalization and online counter-terrorism, hate speech and racism, but also solidarities, activism, and protest.

For more info e-mail Sandra Ponzanesi: [email protected]



Tuesday, April 10, Heyman Center, Common Room

9.00-9.30 Coffee

9.30-10.00 Opening

Sarah Cole (Dean of Arts and Sciences, Division of Humanities)


Sandra Ponzanesi (Utrecht University/Columbia University)


Panel I

Digital Cartographies ‘in’ Time

Moderator: Radhika Gajjala (Bowling Green State University)

Alex Gil (Columbia University)

“In The Same Boats": Moving Maps and Cartographies of Intersections

Roopika Risam (Salem State University)

Cartographies of the Living and the Dead: Mapping Global Migration

Anne McNevin (The New School)

Time, Digital Media, and the Figure of the Migrant


Panel II

Networks, Affects and Activism

Moderator: Jonathan Corpus Ong (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Claudia Minchilli (Utrecht University)

Somali Women in Postcolonial Italy: Identity Construction Through Digital Connectedness

Donya Alinejad (Utrecht University)

Social Media and Feelings of Presence: Mobile Apps and Emotions in a Context of Transnational and Urban Mobility.

Radhika Gajjala (Bowling Green State University)

Migration and Mobility in Gendered Indian Digital Social Media Spaces: Revisiting “Ghar and Bahir

Break 13.00-14.00

(lunch provided for speakers only)


Panel III

Digital Migration in Europe

Moderator: Radha Hegde (New York University)

Melis Mevsimler (Utrecht University)

Divided Nation, Divided Diaspora: Crossroads of Gender and Homeland Politics in Everyday Lives of Migrant Women from Turkey in London

Myria Georgiou (London School of Economics/Annenberg School of Communication, USC)

The Communication Architecture of Humanitarian Securitization: Communicative Politics of Reception at Europe’s Borderland.

Koen Leurs (Utrecht University)

Connected Migrants and Digital Migration Studies in Europe


Coffee break


Panel IV

Cosmopolitan Interruptions

Moderator: Sandra Ponzanesi (Utrecht University/Columbia University)

Bruce Robbins (Columbia University)

The Refugee and the Beneficiary

Frances Negrón-Muntaner (Columbia University)

The Emptying Island: Puerto Rican Expulsion in Post-Maria Time

Wouter Omen (Utrecht University)

Humanitarian Communication, Common Humanities Playground

Move to Case Lounge, Columbia Law School

The Case Lounge, Room 701, Jerome Greene Law School
Take the elevator up to the seventh floor. Turn left and you'll see the double doors of the Case Lounge.

17.30 -18.45


Chair: Sandra Ponzanesi

Mirca Madianou (Goldsmith, University of London)

Technocolonialism: Digital Innovation and Data in Humanitarian Practice


Day 2, Heyman Center Common Room


Panel V

Technologies for Change: Gaming, Piracy & Conviviality

Moderator: Koen Leurs (Utrecht University)

Dennis Tenen (Columbia University)

Global Book Piracy as Peer Preservation

Jonathan Corpus Ong/Maria Rovisco (University of Massachusetts, Amherst/University of Leicester)

Curating Conviviality

Joost Raessens (Utrecht University/NYU)

Life as a Refugee: Games for Change

Break 12.00-13.00

(Lunch Provided for speakers only)


Panel VI

Mediating Migration

Moderator: Marianne Hirsch (Columbia University)

Laura Candidatu (Utrecht University)

Digital Media and Diasporic Mothering: Romanian Diaspora in Amsterdam

Radha Hegde (New York University)

Diasporic Itinerancy and Remediated Authenticities

Ato Quayson (New York University)

Modes of the Selfie from Orality to Social Media


Coffee break


Panel VII

Beyond Connectivity and Surveillance

Moderator: Myria Georgiou (London School of Economics/Annenberg School of Communication, USC)

Sandro Mezzadra (University of Bologna/The New School)

The Border Regime as a Black Box? Migration, Logistics, and Digitalization in Europe and Beyond

Inderpal Grewal (Yale University)

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants: Racial logics of digital production.

Miriam Ticktin (The New School)

Re-imagining Border Technologies, Designing New Political Forms

Move to Jerome Green Annex


Closing Keynote

Chair: Sandra Ponzanesi

Arjun Appadurai (New York University)

Narrative Panic and the Edges of Europe

Conference Reception


  • Speaker & Organizer Sandra Ponzanesi Visiting Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Keynote Speaker Arjun Appadurai Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication New York University
  • Keynote Speaker Mirca Madianou Professor in the Department of Media and Communications Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Speaker Donya Alinejad Researcher in the Department of Media and Culture Studies Utrecht University
  • Speaker Laura Candidatu PhD Candidate Utrecht University
  • Speaker Radhika Gajjala Professor in the Department of Media and Communications Bowling Green State University
  • Speaker Myria Georgiou Professor London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Speaker Alex Gil Digital Scholarship Coordinator, Humanities and History Division of the Libraries Columbia University
  • Speaker Inderpal Grewal Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and of American Studies Yale University
  • Speaker Radha Hegde Professor of Media, Culture and Communication New York University
  • Speaker Koen Leurs Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Culture Studies Utrecht University
  • Speaker Anne McNevin Associate Professor of Politics The New School
  • Speaker Melis Mevsimler PhD Candidate Utrecht University
  • Speaker Sandro Mezzadra Associate Professor of Political Theory Visiting Professor at The New School
  • Speaker Claudia Minchilli PhD Candidate Utrecht University
  • Speaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Speaker Jonathan Corpus Ong Associate Professor of Global Digital Media University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Speaker Wouter Oomen PhD Candidate Universiteit Utrecht
  • Speaker Ato Quayson Professor of English New York University
  • Speaker Joost Raessens Chair of Media Theory Utrecht University
  • Speaker Roopika Risam Assistant Professor of English Salem State University
  • Speaker Bruce Robbins Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities Columbia University
  • Speaker Maria Rovisco Lecturer in Media and Communication University of Leicester
  • Speaker Dennis Tenen Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  • Speaker Miriam Ticktin Associate Professor of Anthropology The New School for Social Research