In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Queer Migration and Digital Media

  • Introduction

Communication Queer Migration and Digital Media
Alexander Dhoest, Łukasz Szulc
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0228


From its early days, the Internet was considered as particularly important to marginalized groups and minorities. For sexual and gender minorities, it was welcomed as a space to explore and express identities discretely and to connect with like-minded people across geographical boundaries. For migrants, the crossing of geographical boundaries was the key appeal of digital media, which allowed them to stay connected with relatives and friends across national boundaries. The further personalization and interactivity of Web 2.0 made it even more appealing, allowing for instantaneous one-on-one communication using both text and images. Despite the particular appeal of digital media to minorities, most of the literature discusses majority users: white, Western, ethno-cultural majority users who are straight and able-bodied. Increasingly, however, the strong impact of social and material contexts and power relations on digital media use is acknowledged. As a consequence, two subfields of digital media studies are growing in tandem, one focusing on digital media and migration, the other on queer digital media uses. The term queer is used here to designate all nonnormative sexual and gender identifications, including but not limited to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans individuals. Through the theoretical framework of intersectionality, the interplay between different social positions is also increasingly acknowledged, which is testified by the emergence of queer migration research, the third area of relevance to this article. So far, however, these three areas of research mostly operate separately, one group of scholars discussing the importance of digital media to migrants, a second researching queer digital media uses, and a third writing about queer migration. Hence, in this article these three areas are first discussed separately, sketching their outlines, debates, and arguments before moving on to the limited and more recent literature focusing on queer migration and digital media. Thus, this article considers intersections of two kinds. First, it draws on intersectionality theory when focusing on the intersection between migration (related to ethno-cultural identity) and sexuality, discussing how both social positions and identifications mutually interact. Second, it explores the intersections between three large fields of research: queer studies, migration studies, and digital media studies, in a first step discussing the places where each two fields connect and overlap and in the final section considering the intersection of all three fields. In each case, the particularities of the subfield are discussed and illustrated through some representative texts, focusing on their theoretical underpinnings and empirical insights. Methodologically, most of the research discussed in this article is qualitative, using interviews or ethnographical approaches to get an in-depth understanding of everyday lived experiences.

Digital Media and Migration

At the intersection of scholarship on migration and scholarship on media uses, over the past decades a distinctive area of research on media uses in a migration context has developed. As in the broader literature on media, from the 2000s the focus in this research shifted from legacy media such as television to digital media, with a further focus on social and mobile media in the 2010s. While most of the early research on media and migration focused on voluntary migrants, in recent years a new subfield has developed, exploring the particular role and importance of digital media for forced migrants. This reflects a broader tendency in the field to acknowledge the diversity in migration processes and trajectories, related to the socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, gender, and other social positions of migrants as well as their legal status and motivations for migration. A distinction is made here between voluntary and forced migrants, taking into account the latter group’s precarious socioeconomic and legal position that also impacts their digital media use.

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