Transnational homegender and belonging among the sahrawi digital diaspora

  1. Silvia Almenara Niebla
Supervised by:
  1. Carmen Ascanio Sánchez

Defence university: Universidad de La Laguna

Year of defence: 2020

Department:
  1. Sociología y Antropología

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 603306

Abstract

This thesis examines gendered migration processes within the contemporary digital media landscape. It aims to understand the impact of digital technologies on everyday refugee diasporic processes. To this end, it explores the particular case of Sahrawi women as the main protagonists of one of the most enduring refugee crises. Over the years, Sahrawi people have started their own migratory displacement beyond the refugee camps to their former colonial power, Spain, as well as other neighbouring countries, such as Mauritania, which has consolidated a refugee diaspora. The migratory experience and importance of maintaining contact with relatives and friends inside the camps have led to an unprecedented, connected refugee diaspora that maintains relations with its home camp through the capabilities of digital technologies. Based on qualitative social media research, this thesis investigates the narratives of 52 Sahrawi participants who were located in the refugee camps, Spain, and Mauritania, as well as those of nine Sahrawi human rights activists and bloggers. Their narratives are complemented by a virtual ethnography of their social media experiences on Facebook and WhatsApp as well as participant observation in different spaces. The results of this thesis indicate that the particular experiences of Sahrawi women in engaging with other members of the Sahrawi community through digital technologies have resignified the notion of home, which is mobilized in physical and symbolic terms that are related to the camps, as well as personal and collective belonging. These findings suggest that the significance of digital technologies derives not from their technological features but rather the gendered practices of their use within particular cultural and social contexts.