Koen Leurs, Ph.D.
Geography Department / ZIS
Lecture involved in the Lecture Series of the Geography Department
"Digital throwntogetherness and transnational affective capital: exploring digital practices among young migrants"
November 2014, Campus Mainz
Digital throwntogetherness and transnational affective capital: exploring digital practices among young migrants
In his lecture, Koen Leurs will compare digital practices of urban ethnic minority youth living in London with Somali refugee youth in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Proposing the notions of “digital throwntogetherness” and “transnational affective capital”, he untangles two specific dynamics of their digital experiences: 1) the use of digital media to negotiate living in the proximity and co-presence of ethnic, racial and religious others and 2) transnational networking with loved ones scattered around the world.
First, as more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and urban areas are key nodal points in the transnational flow of migrants, the question how we can (learn) to live together with difference is more poignant than ever. London is an illustrative case in point, where more than half of the population exists of ethnic minorities. Following Massey, city dwellers have to negotiate a situation of “throwntogetherness” (2005), living in the proximity and copresence of ethnic, racial and religious others. Conceptualizing and empirically grounding digital throwntogetherness, the relationships between young Londoners, urban space and digital mediation by charting whether digital technology use enhances integration or results in segregation.
Secondly, he developed the notion of“transnational affective capital” by charting how young Somali migrants stranded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia feel about staying in touch with loved ones abroad using Internet-based transnational communication. Left behind during transit migration from Somalia to overseas, they can only digitally connect with contacts living inside for example dreamed diasporic locations in Europe. The intense feelings of togetherness originating in Skype video-chat, mobile phone calls and Facebook use are conceptualized with the notion of transnational affective capital – one of the only sources of capital the informants have. The ambivalence of transnational affective capital is scrutinized by exploring whether such connectivity routines offer trust, enable anxiety management and promote ‘ontological security’. Alternatively, the question arises whether transnational communication may further exacerbate ontological insecurity: discomfort, unsettlement and increased anxiety related to the precarious situation of being stranded.
Leurs argues that digital throwntogetherness and transnational affective capital are helpful to give an account of general online experience and in particular to better
acknowledge the micro-politics of association.
Dr. Koen Leurs is a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, at the department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science (UK). At the LSE he works on Urban Politics of London Youth Analysed Digitally (UPLOAD). Also, he is an Affiliated researcher at Graduate Gender Studies and the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON) at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.