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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - Wednesday, April 11, 2018  9:00am The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room


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


    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


  • 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


By Semester