Solidarity, Social Media, and the “Refugee Crisis”: Engagement Beyond Affect
The images of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old who drowned in the Aegean Sea in 2015, and Omran Daqneesh, a five-year-old covered in dust and blood waiting shell-shocked in the back of an ambulance in 2016, both symbolize the horror and suffering endured by civilians throughout the “refugee crisis” in Europe and the civil war in Syria. Yet, the circulation of these images mobilized different outcomes. Kurdi’s image engendered solidarity that was supported by action, whereas Daqneesh’s image did not result in the same effect. This article reflects on the potential for solidarity of images circulating on social media by placing them in relation to the context in which they are embedded. The results of our study show that although shocking images can awaken compassion toward the oppressed, they do not necessarily translate into movements of solidarity, but can rather degenerate into ineffective forms of pity.
Dr. Miriyam Aouragh is a Reader at CAMRI. She has studied the implications of the internet as it was first introduced (“Web 1.0”) in Palestine (PhD, University of Amsterdam, 2000-2008) to understand in particular the significance of techno-social evolutions by analysing how a new technology coincided with the outbreak of a mass uprising (Second Intifada 2000-2005). She then focused on the political role of new internet developments, such as blogging and social networking (“Web 2.0”) for grassroots activism in Lebanon and Palestine (Postdoc, Oxford Internet Institute, 2009-2011). After earning a Leverhulme Early Career (UoW, 2013-2016) funding Miriyam set-up a critical research project in which she relates theory with online analysis through a focus on the complex revolutionary dynamics in the Arab world. In these new techno-social relations, marked by revolution and counter-revolution, she researched and wrote about the paradoxical context of online-revolution and cyber-imperialism. During fieldwork in Palestine, Jordan Lebanon and Morocco, she combined participant observation and interviews with media analyses and throughout her academic projects and collaborations in general, she relates online studies and observations with ethnographic (offline) methodologies, and theoretical focus on critical race, political-economy and infrastructures. Miriyam theorizes how the contradictions of capitalism shape the modes and meanings of resistance in the era of revolution and digital transformations. Her work is published in several books and journals (see Publications) including her own monograph Palestine Online (IB Tauris 2011), forthcoming book on Cyber Imperialism (2021) and monograph about the (r)evolutionary dynamics of protest in Morocco (2022). Miriyam teaching about internet, (global) media, (Middle East/race) politics and anthropology. She welcomes and supervises PhD students.
International Journal of Communication