Social Media Usage, Tahriib (Migration), and Settlement among Somali Refugees in France

By Charmarkeh, Houssein | Refuge, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Social Media Usage, Tahriib (Migration), and Settlement among Somali Refugees in France


Charmarkeh, Houssein, Refuge


Abstract

Technologies are omnipresent in our society, from mobile telephone systems to satellite television and Internet broadcasting, which shape the way we live, work, and interact. They have also transformed the experience of international migration, making it possible for migrants to maintain strong ties between the host society and the home country. In this article, we examine the precarious situation lived by Somali refugees in France, and we explore their uses of social media during tahriib or their migratory path and settlement in three French cities. The first section discusses the method on which this field study is based, that of critical and multi-sited ethnography. After describing living conditions experienced by Somali refugees in France in the next section, the last section presents the findings of the field study. In doing so, the present research strives to fill a research gap by contributing to the advancement of knowledge on social media use by refugees.

Resume

Les technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC) sont omnipresentes et la telephonie mobile, la television par satellite et internet faconnent notre facon de vivre, de travailler et d'interagir. Elles ont aussi transforme la migration internationale, rendant possible pour les migrants le maintien des liens forts entre la societe d'accueil et le pays d'origine. Dans cet article, nous examinons le sort precaire des refugies Somaliens en France et explorons leurs usages des medias sociaux pendant le tahriib ou trajet migratoire et l'installation dans trois villes francaises. Dans un premier temps, nous allons presenter la methode de l'ethnographie critique et multi-sites sur laquelle repose cette presente enquete de terrain. Il s'agit en dernier, apres avoir decrit les conditions de vie des refugies Somaliens en France, de presenter les resultats. Cette presente recherche tente de contribuer a l'avancement du savoir sur les usages des medias sociaux par les refugies.

Introduction

Information and communication technologies (ICT) permeate today all levels of society and undoubtedly contribute to a sense of reduced space and time. The accelerated development of these technologies arises from a radical transformation of a largely globalized capitalist economy. (1) Mobile telephone systems, satellite television, and Internet broadcasting shape the way we live, work, and interact. They have also transformed the experience of international migration, making it possible for migrants to maintain strong ties between the host society and the home country. Many studies have been conducted in this context on the uses of ICT by migrants in host countries. (2) However, studies focusing on the uses of ICT by refugees during their migratory trajectories and their settlement are limited. In a research report prepared by Linda Leung (3) for the UNHCR and published in 2011, the author highlights the fact that there was little consideration of the particular importance technology held for refugees and asylum seekers, individuals who are also affected by problems of migration and marginalization. The present research strives to fill this gap by contributing to the advancement of knowledge on social media use by refugees. In this context, "social media" refers to primarily new media including Facebook and YouTube. There are also supporting instant communication tools such as Skype, MSN Messenger, and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). In order to do so, the analysis of social media use by refugees should not limit itself by considering technical devices as guarantors of individual autonomy and by taking refugees to be actors in control of their social and economic environment. Consequently, a more critical view is needed of the discourses claiming that society has become more "equal" and "solidary" thanks to ICT. This utopia, as described by Armand Mattelart, (4) poorly hides relations of domination and exclusion in society, which are based on ethnicity, social class, gender, and age. …

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