Digital Strangers At Our Door: Moral Panic And The Refugee Crisis

Sandra Ponzanesi
2018 Zenodo  
The recent refugee crisis in Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. This has meant that migrants have been able to use new digital affordances to aid themselves in risky transnational crossings, keeping in touch with the loved ones left behind but also with the peers who have successfully arrived in the destination countries. But the combination of technology and migration deserves further scrutiny as it has not only allowed for geographical distance to be bridged through
more » ... idged through digital proximity but also created new anxieties and fears. Recent media images of refugees reaching dry land and taking selfies, for example, has sparked heated debates on whether these refugees are worthy of aid and support (Chouliaraki, 2017; Risam, 2018, Ticktin, 2016). The assumption is that refugees should be innocent victims, helpless and disenfranchised in order to fit with the claim for humanitarian help bestowed by the West. Images of refugees as technologically savvy and digital natives have instead generated fear and anxiety about an invasion of bogus refugees feeding into 'high tech orientalism' (Chun, 2006, p. 73). The present intervention investigates how digital technologies have been used bottom up to offer new ways of communication and support to 'connected migrants' (Diminescu, 2008) versus the increased top down use of technologies for monitoring, surveillance and racial profiling done both by government organizations and by media at large. The idea is that technologies offer new tools for engaging in transnational cosmopolitan alliances but that the speed, uncontrollability and unpredictability of these flows have also generated new sources of anxiety and resistance to these strangers at our door as theorized by Zygmunt Bauman (2016). How do migrants and technology enhance this culture of anxiety in Europe? How is anxiety fomented in order to 'frame' migrants as new players in our risk society (Beck, 1992)?
doi:10.5281/zenodo.1421798 fatcat:n2fd57y4t5hb3cwsynxftw3tyu