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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lost in Migration: Digitalizing Diaspora and Decolonizing Syrian Refugee Narratives

  • Author(s): Yen, Leia
  • Advisor(s): Snelson, Daniel
  • et al.
Abstract

Although there are traditional works in print about the Syrian refugee crisis, an unprecedented amount of digitalized narratives demonstrates a shift in the body of diaspora literature towards using internet technologies to convey refugee stories. Mobile devices in the hands of refugees have made the crisis one of the most self-documented in history and yet the most prevalent and influential digital representations of Syria are those created by third parties. How do digital literary forms effect diaspora narratives, especially when the texts are created by distant mediators? I argue that digital narratives of the Syrian refugee crisis create two layers of liminality. The first layer is the migration narrative itself; the second layer, though, is a new type of liminality created by digital spaces in which narratives hybridize as they encounter alternative values, beliefs, and social constructs embedded within the structures of digital texts. My thesis takes the form of a website that deconstructs the design elements of the digital texts “Searching for Syria,” migrant-related selfies and memes, and “Heln’s First Year.” I use these case studies as examples of how synthesizing post-colonial theory with postmodern deconstructivism can work to decolonize digital texts as well as identify the ways in which hypermediacy can be used for ethical design.

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