“Refugee Voices,” New Social Media and Politics of Representation: Young Congolese in the Diaspora and Beyond
This article examines the role of new social media in the articulation and representation of the refugee and diasporic “voice.” The article problematizes the individualist, de-politicized, de-contextualized, and aestheticized representation of refugee/diasporic voices. It argues that new social media enable refugees and diaspora members to exercise agency in managing the creation, production, and dissemination of their voices and to engage in hybrid (on- and offline) activism. These new territories for self-representation challenge our conventional understanding of refugee/diaspora voices. The article is based on research with young Congolese living in the diaspora, and it describes the Geno-cost project created by the Congolese Action Youth Platform (CAYP) and JJ Bola’s spoken-word piece, “Refuge.” The first shows agency in the creation of analytical and activist voices that promote counter-hegemonic narratives of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, while the second is an example of aesthetic expressions performed online and offline that reveal agency through authorship and ownership of one’s voice. The examples highlight the role that new social media play in challenging mainstream politics of representation of refugee/diaspora voices.
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